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Thanks to the EU and UNDP partnership, children from the kindergartens in Ungheni create and program robots

“Steluta” kindergarten is one of the seven preschool institutions in Ungheni municipality that were equipped with tablets, LEGO® sets, computers, interactive whiteboards and projectors, so that over 2000 children may develop their digital skills and competencies. The robotics classes, which are part of digital education, started in September 2023 and quickly became a favorite among children.

The carousel and other constructions

Seated each in his/her bench, with a tablet and a LEGO® Education SPIKE™ Essential set. This is how the children from the preparatory class of the “Steluta” kindergarten in Ungheni begin the robotics lesson. Guided by three educators – robotics trainers – once in two weeks, the pupils learn to create and program robots.

“We don’t just create/build the robots. Our robots also perform a range of other actions: they move, light up – this impresses the children a lot and motivates them to study robotics”, explains Maxim Chișco, one of the robotics trainers.

Maxim Chișco, together with two other fellow educators, supervises and guides the children in robot programming.

“We start by capturing their interest, creating a story and offering the feeling of safety so that then the actual programming begins. We strive to integrate robotics topics with the topics that children study normally in their usual classes so that there is continuity”, notes Aliona Grușco, the robotics trainer.

“Today we will program a carousel!”, the educators announce to the children ready to start assembling the pieces.

The carousel is one of the many constructions that children can make with the provided sets. They can also make helicopters, ferries or cars.

“Construction ideas are very different and various, and programming is easy, even if it may seem complicated at first. We started by training the children and teaching them the skills to be able to use digital devices: connect the tablet, open the application, disconnect the tablet”, adds Aliona Grușco.

Educators become robotics trainers

Robotics lessons in kindergartens in Ungheni municipality started and were preceded by several trainings for teachers. Lucia Gavriliuc, the director of the “Steluta” kindergarten, mentions that three employees of the institution she leads have been trained to conduct robotics lessons in the pre-school groups.

“We are aware that robotics is a field that can offer children a bright future. The sooner children start practicing, the more interesting it is for them because we use age-appropriate methods. We encourage creativity and support the development of skills to create games, to build robots, to know how to use the Internet and the computer in everyday activity”, emphasizes Lucia Gavriliuc.

During May-June and September this year, 19 teachers from the seven kindergartens in Ungheni municipality participated in a robotics training program. During the training sessions, participants discovered several interactive board games and learned how to use LEGO® sets.

Robotics stimulates creativity and develops fine motor skills

Ana Melnic has two children, and her six-year-old daughter, Alexandra, attends robotics lessons.

“Initially I was skeptical and I didn’t think there would be such lessons”, says Ana.

However, within just a few months of starting the lessons, Ana noticed positive changes in her daughter’s behavior and development. “Alexandra became much more attentive, and curious, and learned to enjoy the learning through play process. Lego has become her favorite activity even at home.”

Irina Cojocaru is a robotics trainer at the “Steluta” kindergarten and the mother of Victoria, her daughter, who also attends the robotics classes.

“As a parent, I can say that children like robotics. My daughter is delighted, she counts the days and asks me when the next robotics lessons will be, she tells me at home what and how she built”, mentions Irina Cojocaru.

Before starting the robotics classes, the children were used to traditional robotics, such as LEGO®, which they did at home, without motors and which does not involve programming, but in just a few months they mastered elementary aspects of robotics and acquired more skills.

“These lessons develop the children’s creativity and fine motor skills because there are very small parts in the LEGO® set, which train their attention and memory as at the end the robot will be dismantled”, notes Maxim Chișco.

Educators also notice that robotics makes children responsible, makes them more persistent, and attentive and cultivates their desire to work in groups.

In 2022-2023, the “EU4Moldova: Key Regions” Program, funded by the EU and implemented by UNDP and UNICEF, equipped kindergartens in the municipalities of Ungheni and Cahul with interactive whiteboards, projectors, computers, color printers, tablets and LEGO® Education SPIKE™ sets Essential worth over 146,000 euros.