Physical Computing Allows for Cross-Curricular Connections

By integrating computer science concepts and skills with other subjects, students can better understand the interconnectedness of different fields of study and how computer science can be used to solve real-world problems.

Coding skills
Cross curricular integration
Problem solving skills
Fun and unique learning experience


Integrating CS with other subjects helps students to make connections between different areas of study.


Today, many jobs require skills in both computer science and other areas of study.


Cross-curricular connections can promote interdisciplinary collaboration while helping students build teamwork skills, which are valuable in many careers.


The Challenge

In today's ever-evolving digital landscape, it is crucial to equip young students with the skills and knowledge to navigate and shape the world of technology. Teaching physical computing at the elementary school level holds immense importance as it goes beyond mere programming and electronics. It fosters critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity while integrating multiple disciplines.

By engaging with physical computing, young learners embark on a journey that nurtures their computational thinking skills and encourages collaboration, all while igniting their curiosity and innovation. By embracing the challenges and investing in the teaching of physical computing, educators are able to unlock the potential of young learners. Teachers empower them to become active creators and innovators in the digital world, equipped with the skills to tackle complex problems and contribute to the rapidly advancing technological landscape. In doing so, educators nurture a generation that can shape a future where technology serves as a tool for positive change and enrichment.

However, this endeavor is not without its challenges. One of the primary hurdles lies in the abstract nature of the concepts involved. Electronics, wiring, and programming can be daunting for young learners. Additionally, teachers are not formally prepared to teach the content. Limited resources, both in terms of equipment and time, can further impede the effective implementation of physical computing projects within the elementary school curriculum. One way to address these challenges is to integrate physical computing with meaningful cross-curricular connections.

The Solution

Cross-curricular connections are important in computer science education because they help students see the relevance and applicability of computer science in other subject areas and real-world contexts. By integrating computer science concepts and skills with other subjects, students can better understand the interconnectedness of different fields of study and how computer science can be used to solve real-world problems.

What is Physical Computing?

Physical computing is a type of computing that involves creating interactive physical systems by combining hardware devices such as sensors, motors, and microcontrollers with software programming. The goal of physical computing is to create interactive systems that can sense and respond to the physical world, such as robots, wearable technology, and other electronic devices.

Importance of Physical Computing

  • It teaches computational thinking: Physical computing involves problem-solving and designing solutions using computational thinking, which is a critical skill in the digital age. It involves breaking down complex problems into smaller, more manageable components and designing solutions using algorithms and data structures.
  • It promotes creativity and innovation: Physical computing encourages students to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions to real-world problems. It allows them to combine their knowledge of computer science with their creativity and imagination to design and build interactive systems.
  • It provides hands-on learning opportunities: Physical computing provides students with hands-on learning opportunities that allow them to see the direct impact of their coding and design decisions. This type of experiential learning can be more engaging and meaningful than traditional classroom instruction.
  • It prepares students for the future: Physical computing is becoming increasingly important in a wide range of industries, from robotics and automation to wearable technology and the Internet of Things. By learning about physical computing, students are better prepared for the future job market and the digital economy.

Physical Computing in Classrooms

Physical computing has become increasingly popular in recent years, and many schools are incorporating it into their curriculum. Some schools may have dedicated makerspaces or technology labs where students can experiment with physical computing, while others may use classroom sets of kits or online resources to teach physical computing concepts.It is clear that physical computing education is becoming more prevalent in elementary schools, and efforts are being made to increase access and opportunities for students to learn about this important field.

In Ohio, Mr. Brian Miller-Sterling, a STEAM teacher at Norwayne Local, incorporates physical computing in his elementary and middle school computer science curriculum and coaches other teachers at his school to include physical computing with Unruly Splats.

Mr. Miller-Sterling works closely with their P.E teacher to integrate physical computing in fun and meaningful ways. They team-teach fifth graders and work closely to involve other teachers at the school. The duo tries to make it as easy as possible for teachers to use Splats in core subjects by sending students into other teachers’ classrooms to support, or by coaching them himself. Mr. Brian Miller-Sterling says that he wants to show “a good initial experience so that other teachers want to try.”

Similarly in Texas, Mrs. Angela Brown, a library media specialist at South Euless School, leverages physical computing with Unruly Splats to promote buy-in from teachers at her school and to open equity and access to computer science education.

Mrs. Brown trained and led a group of six staff members to participate in their tech program. These staff members jumped right in and immediately loved integrating the Unruly Splats with their teaching.

“They had a lot of fun incorporating it into what they were already teaching the kids. They found it easy to teach the kids. Then, they kind of found their own way to incorporate Unruly Splats into ELA, math. Integrating Unruly splats with PE, in particular, is easy, and we have used it for music,” — Angela Brown

Benefits of Integrating Physical Computing with Other Content Areas

Integrating computer science concepts and skills with other subjects can help students make connections between different areas of study — leading to a deeper understanding of both subjects. For example, integrating computer science with math can help students see how math concepts can be applied to real-world problems in computer science. In addition, by exploring the intersection of computer science with other subject areas, students can be inspired to think creatively about how computer science can be used to solve problems in different fields. This, in turn, can help to prepare them to address future challenges.

Today, many jobs require skills in both computer science and other areas of study. By integrating computer science with other subjects, students can develop a wide range of hard and soft skills. Cross-curricular connections can provide opportunities for students to work together in interdisciplinary teams, collaborate and work on teamwork skills, which are valuable in many careers.

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