Robots coming to a kindergarten near you

A close-up of view of the KIBO educational robot. Courtesy Mission Grammar School via Twitter

BRAINTREE -- Programming robots might not sound like a task for the average kindergartener, but it's something students in 11 Catholic schools across the Archdiocese of Boston will soon be able to do with ease thanks to a new partnership between the archdiocese and KinderLab Robotics.

Founded by Marina Umaschi Bers, a professor at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development and the Computer Science Department at Tufts University, and Mitch Rosenberg, a veteran executive of a number of robotics start-ups, KinderLab Robotics was formed out of a need to make Bers' research on new technologies for young children widely available.

That research helped produce KIBO, a robot kit sold by KinderLab Robotics that's designed for 4 to 7 year-olds.

"The KIBO robot comes with wheels and motors, so the child actually gets to have the experience of building and constructing it themselves, and learning what all the different parts mean. There are three sensors -- a distance sensor, a light sensor, and a sound sensor -- as well as a lightbulb," said Amanda Sullivan, a researcher with Tuft's Developmental Technologies Research Group, a group directed by Bers that developed an early model of KIBO.

"How you get KIBO to do things is through programming it, or giving it a series of instructions, and unlike some of the other robotics kits that are out there, KIBO is programmed without any screen time, so no computers or iPads," she continued.

Instead, children are able to scan special wooden KIBO blocks, each one representing a different programming function, to give KIBO commands. By scanning multiple blocks before activating the robot, a string of commands, or a program, is formed, allowing KIBO to carry out a sequence of instructions when activated.

Schools across the world have already started to incorporate KIBO into their early education classes, and, through a new partnership between the archdiocese and KinderLab Robotics, 11 schools in the archdiocese will be utilizing KIBO in their kindergarten classes this year.

"We can be very nimble in Catholic education, and really be innovative in bringing in programs. A lot of schools have been focusing on STREAM... and this was a great way for us to come up with a new way to do that inside our schools," said Amy Ryan, Associate Superintendent for Academics and Digital Learning at the archdiocese's Catholic Schools Office.

An acronym for Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art, and Math, STREAM represents a fairly new initiative that seeks to integrate the six subjects in the classroom in the hopes it will teach students to think more critically and creatively.

Ryan organized a two-day workshop at the Pastoral Center in Braintree Aug. 10 and 11 for kindergarten teachers representing the 11 schools to meet Bers, get hands-on experience with KIBO, and brainstorm how to integrate the robot into their lesson plans.

At the end of the workshop, teachers were able to take with them KIBO robot kits, with schools getting five kits per kindergarten classroom.

Suzanne Kent, a teacher at Blessed Sacrament School in Walpole, said she was pleased at how easy KIBO is to use.

"It's very hands-on and user friendly, which lends itself easily to the classroom, especially early childhood classrooms, where they want to build and create. The robots lead right into that. There's not something like a screen that's too overwhelming for the kids, at this age, to understand," she said.

"It's very open-ended. You can build anything on top of it, you can set different sequences to code it to do different things. So, it's very user friendly and curriculum friendly that it could be adapted into a math unit, estimating how far it can go. You could tie it into science, literacy -- the robots are endless possibilities," she continued.

Andrea Grogan, also from Blessed Sacrament School, said she and Kent had an idea to use the robots in a parade that would celebrate the school's 50th anniversary this year.

She said the students could decorate the robots, and then walk beside them in the parade, which would take place during the school's daily assemblies.

Therese Bethoney from Holy Family School in Rockland and Stephanie Allt from St. Patrick School in Roxbury said that they worked together to come up with their plan for the KIBO robots -- using them in a Christmas Pageant.

"We decided that we would incorporate drama, technology, which would be the KIBO, and the children, we would give them small parts narrating the Christmas story," said Bethoney.

"This would be in December," said Allt, "so at that point they would know how to program it to go straight."

Allt said that she will have "each of her students keep a KIBO notebook," so they will have a "journal to keep track" of the programming strings they create.

Next year, the schools that participated in the two-day workshop will likely be invited back to another workshop to "continue the learning journey," Ryan said.

She said that, because she has received so much interest in this year's workshop, she believes that "next year we would expand it and invite more schools to participate."

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...