LACEY SPRING — The lobby of Lacey Spring Elementary School looked a little odd Thursday afternoon.
Third-grade and kindergarten students were seated around a track made of printer paper taped together. In front of the each third-grader was a small, color-changing robot, known as an Ozobot. And attached to each bot was a decorated, helium-filled balloon.
Some of the Ozobots were eager to get going and began to glide away from their operator, or start spinning in circles.
“We’re about to have our first-ever after Thanksgiving parade,” said teacher Jessica Phillips.
Phillips’ class had just finished reading “Balloons Over Broadway,” a book about the first person to create the massive parade balloons seen in such events as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. To mark the occasion, Phillips decided to bring literature and science together.
“I saw something on a teaching blog and decided to expand it a little bit,” she said.
The Ozobots require coding to program their actions. For instance, they can be coded to go very fast, spin in circles, or travel at a slow speed.
Students chose the coding for their Ozobot. They then decorated a balloon to represent a book character that they like. It forced students to experiment with different weighted craft items that could drag the balloon down.
The kindergartners in attendance are Phillips’ class’ “book buddies.” Lacey Spring Elementary participates cross-grade interaction, one instance of which is book buddies.
At least once a month Phillips’ students pair up with their kindergarten buddies to read, do math activities, or create something.
“They get to be a role model to the younger kids,” Phillips said. “And it gives [third-graders] a chance to practice reading out loud.”
Before the parade began on Thursday, each of Phillips’ students went around and said what character their balloon was decorated as.
They included Junie B. Jones, from the book series of the same name, the robot from “Wild Robot,” the wimpy kid from “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” Max from “Max’s Story,” Sam I Am from “Green Eggs and Ham” and Little Red Riding Hood.
Gavin Ryman chose Jack Sullivan from the book series “The Last Kids on Earth” for the inspiration for his balloon. He also chose the turbo setting for his Ozobot.
“It worked really well, but when it got to my friend Landon’s part it got a little bit of a traffic jam,” Gavin said.
Autumn Moyers was the third-grader who chose Junie B. Jones for her balloon, which she said was the best part of the project.
When asked why Junie was her choice, Autumn said about the popular book character: “She knows that she’ll get into trouble, but she does things anyway. I like how she thinks.”