I am a Scout Master for Boy Scouts and a Troop Leader for Girl Scouts. Several members on my teams are also in my scout troops, which is great because I can just hold up the Scout Sign and get everyone’s attention. These organizations have been helping develop youth for over 100 years, so I thought, what can I borrow from scouting for First Lego League?
Three things come to mind, badges, closing circle and the EDGE method.
Both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts have a badge reward system. Boy Scouts have over 100 merit badges, including robotics. You have to earn certain merit badges to get Eagle. Girl Scouts have different badges for each membership level. The badge reward system works. I developed badges for First Lego League and am trying it with the Capital Girls. So far, the results have been encouraging. I use the badges to recognize team contribution and more importantly, to encourage team members to learn and try new things. I think we have about 30 badges. For example, you can earn a line following or wall squaring badge. Because they want to earn badges, they take the time to learn about a concept. When they are doing run strategy, they figure out how to apply a badge concept like wall or line squaring. The badges are not just robot focused, they also cover project and core values. My two favorites are Team Spirit and Supporter. Theses are badges any team member can award to another team member and there is no limit to how many you can earn. If someone encourages a team member, they tend to get a supporter badge. If some has a really positive attitude, the often receive a Team Spirit badge. Once a team member earns a badge, they stick it on the back of their team notebook. Download our team badges and requirements to learn more.
In Girl Scouts, we do a closing circle at the end of each meeting. The girls cross their arms and holds hands. One person starts, squeezing the person’s hand on the right. When your hand is squeezed, you stick you right foot forward and squeeze the hand on the right. When it gets to the last person, they say something they liked about the activity and then everyone spins out of the circle.
In my Boy Scout Troop, everyone crosses their arms and does the Scout Blessing, “May the great Master of all Scouts be with us ’til we meet again, be prepared.”
For Robotics, I adapted the closing circle from Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. We call it a confidence circle. The team gets in a circle and each team member must say something positive about the person to their right. The positive comment has to be related to the meeting or activity, not “I like your hair”. Once the circle completes, we reverse the direction if we have time. I sometimes make the team switch around so people are not always next to the same people. When I first started this, the girls really struggled with giving a word of encouragement. It was not something they were used to doing. Now, they are instant and meaningful. The real purpose of the circle is to have them lift each other up and focus on the positive. I was touched at our last meeting when they did an impromptu group hug.
The EDGE method is a Boy Scout concept for experiential learning, or “learning by doing”.
Explain how it is done – Tell them
Demonstrate the steps – Show them
Guide learners as they practice – Watch them do it
Enable them to succeed on their own – Use memory aids, practice it, they teach it
We start with EDGE in the summer months, doing challenges like the SUMO Challenge, to help the youth understand sensors and to develop advanced programming flow. Once we get into the season, we use EDGE as part of Robot Design and programming, the team does several experiments, like what wheel size is the fastest. Once the team has a base robot, we do robot test or field mat challenges that leverage EDGE. The drop test is the youth’s favorite. Hold the robot 3 feet, then drop it. Then, 6 feet. Takes lots of pictures before the drop test. This teaches the kids about solid robot design. See Robot Design and Program Team Notebook section for some of the EDGE exercises. To enable, we use badges and a series of reference posters (Program Flow, Line Following) on the wall that are used as memory aid. We also have each youth teach the rest of the team what they learned when they figure out a new concept.