Case Study: Heyworth Elementary School Uses Photon to Reinforce SEL and Coding Skills

Shannon Stout
November 11, 2021

Students from Mrs. Hotchkiss's and Mrs. Morse's second grade and sixth grade classes at Heyworth Elementary School in Heyworth, IL, used the Photon SEL Kit to reinforce and expand on their coding knowledge, while also learning about expressing their emotions and storytelling.

The approach
  • Eight Photon robots were used in both the second grade and sixth grade classes.
  • The second grade class had 21 students, while the sixth grade class had 23 students.
  • Most of the second grade students had been exposed to coding, but their familiarity with and understanding of coding was very limited.
  • The sixth graders had more experience with coding, taking courses that gave them a little bit of background knowledge. They had also worked with other robots in the past.
  • Both classes used the Photon SEL Kit, utilizing two of the Kit's included lessons, and developing one of their own.

Photon looked and how the robot itself and the applications did not seem too ‘intimidating’.

the challenges & goals

Time and time management are always huge challenges for any school and class. Classroom teachers have so much content they need to get through, and introducing something new like coding and Photon can be intimidating.

The goal started off as a lesson in coding and exposing students to new technology, giving them a unique experience and opportunity.

the program

Three lessons were taught using Photon and the SEL Kit. Two lessons, Social Identities and Storytelling Choices, were included
in the Kit. The third was developed by the teachers. Groups of students used craft supplies to decorate their Photon, and then
created a brief storyline about their character. They programmed Photon to display at least three different emotions to go along with
their story that could be shown using sounds, colors, and/or speed.

The students were delighted by the sounds Photon emitted, and listened and watched intently while instructions on how to navigate the app were presented. Once the students had their hands on Photon, they stayed excited and engaged during the entirety of each lesson.

The teachers commented on how well the students worked together using Photon, and how it was clearly an exercise in teamwork, collaboration, and critical thinking. Often, students will get frustrated or fussy with one another when working on team projects, but that was not the case at any point while working with Photon.


By the end of the lessons, students had a better understanding of expressing different feelings and emotions. The concept of being respectful and mindful of others was also a major theme throughout the lessons.

Students also developed their understanding of coding. Second graders progressed quickly from the basic Photon Draw program, where they were simply dragging their fingers on the grid to drive Photon, to the directional-arrow program of Photon Badge. Some students even progressed into the more advanced Photon Blocks program.

The sixth graders started with the Photon Badge program and some were able to progress into the Photon Code program, where their problem solving and coding abilities were challenged.

Both teachers were very impressed with the potential of Photon to work across multiple subject areas. They were both excited to utilize Photon in their future curriculum and were both pleased at how effective Photon is at helping to facilitate meaningful group work.

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