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Cubetto’s Spring Break Adventure

Founded by three sets of parents who are passionate about informal learning and the power of play, OliOli is the first hands-on children’s museum in Dubai. Bringing together the work of leading educators, international artists, developmental psychologists and exhibit designers, OliOli is an interactive museum of delights to stimulate a child’s body and mind. OliOli means joy in Hawaiian.


Reid Bingham is the Creative Lab Director at OliOli. He has worked with the OliOli team to build up the Creative Lab gallery, turning it into a ‘making and tinkering space’ for kids and families in Dubai. He is responsible for all exhibits, activities and workshops in the Lab, as well as developing all camps and programmes that the museum offers to the public. Before joining OliOli he was Maker Space Coordinator at the NY Hall of Science where he managed the day-to-day operations of the space, designed workshops, taught classes and supervised and trained a team of makerspace facilitators. Here he shares tips for using Cubetto with an older age group than usual – children aged 7-10.

Reid told us about the project and how he included Cubetto in the learning process:

“The spring break camp at OliOli was a week-long program about simple circuits, basic robotics and an intro to coding, all without using any computers. Getting our Classroom Bundle of Cubettos was the last step to making this camp possible, and I was excited to finally get to use these delightful little robots with kids. The only catch was that I was going to run this camp twice, one week with ages 4-6, and the week after with ages 7-10. I knew Cubetto would be great for the younger kids in my camp but what about the older ones? Would they get bored of Cubetto after a short while? How could I make this little robot appeal to these big kids?”

“I had to run two workshops with older kids. I wanted the first day’s workshop to be a ‘coding adventure’ (like the Cubetto storybooks and maps), and the next day’s session to explore ‘robotic art’ by attaching markers to Cubetto. One of the reasons I was so interested in Cubetto was how narrative is used to engage kids in coding, but while the books and maps we have are great, they were definitely designed for a younger crowd, children aged 3-6. With this in min,d I decided to make a new adventure for Cubetto for my older campers. This turned out to be a really fun process.”

“My goal was that after a bit of circle time introducing Cubetto, the Control Board, and the Blocks, I would let the kids progress through the adventure and teach them the different programming and computational thinking skills I wanted to them experience. Breaking the adventure down into chapters seemed like a natural way to incrementally increase the difficulty and let each step focus on a different concept.”

“And because limitation is the mother of innovation, I decided to precisely control how many of each block the kids got, for each chapter in the story. This worked very well on many levels. For one, it allowed me to start them off simply, making sure they understood how to use the compass and cardinal directions, as well as understanding the idea of ‘thinking they were Cubetto’ when they were programming. More importantly, though, it allowed me to create situations in which the kids had to problem-solve using complex computational thinking and programming ideas.”

“Explaining concepts like abstraction and generalisation are incredibly tough to understand at any age. So instead of explaining it, you can give the kids only backwards blocks without any forwards ones, and challenge them to move around the map. This creates a need to discover, and then use, the application of those concepts without getting confused by the concepts themselves. They may not be able to recite the definition of technical jargon, but the core programming ideas, and more importantly their application, seems to stick when the kids have a problem they want to solve, and can figure out the solution themselves.”

“So with the children split into four groups of three, I gave them all a printed version of Cubetto’s Spring Break Adventure, a story I wrote especially for this class. Each chapter begins with a sentence or two of story about Cubetto as a set-up, and then there is a mission for the kids to program to move the story forward. Once they solved the mission I would have them draw the solution and show me or me my co-facilitator before they could move on to the next chapter and get more (or fewer!) blocks.”

“The story is very silly, but the kids got really into it, and it helped keep things fun as they worked through the tougher programming challenges. The kids also liked the addition of plastic animals that can ride on top of Cubetto and the silly places we changed the squares on the map to.

If I had more time (we only had an hour!) I would add more chapters to have the students dig deeper into how each block can be substituted for a combination of other blocks (1 Yellow = 3 Red and vice versa), and then use that idea to introduce the function block. I will be using Cubetto again this summer in a space-themed camp. I cannot wait to take Cubetto and our kids to the farthest reaches of the galaxy!”

Thanks, Reid! The sessions look AWESOME! We can’t wait to join you on the next trip!

If you liked the look of Cubetto’s Spring Break Adventure and would like to download the companion storybook, you can grab it for free here! Happy adventures!


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