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NextGen SmartyPants

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Below is an Overview of the NEXTGEN4 Curriculum. Taking a few minutes to understanding these overview concepts will give you significant insights into how the curriculum works, what program to enroll in, and how to guide your child as they progress through it. If at any time you would like to talk with a NextGen Curriculum Advisor, just give us a call, send us a text, write us an email, or schedule a call, and we'll be happy to help you!
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Overview of the

NEXTGEN4 Curriculum

Robotics Framework

Our Students are intensely curious about the world around them. Whether it's a car, heating system, or door opener, their world is full of Robotics!  Robotics brings together four technologies - Coding, Engineering, Circuits, and Sensors. That's why NextGen SmartyPants' innovative, award-winning NEXTGEN4 STEAM Education Curriculum utilizes Robotics as its framework. Because Students (young and old!) learn best through play, our Curriculum uses a project-based learning approach where the complexity of the project is varied depending on the Student.
NEXTGEN5 Curriculum
For most Students, it's is typically best to start with one of our introductory Robotics programs in order to establish a foundation for further learning. From there, we usually advise Parents to consider going with the Student's interest in follow-up programs in Coding, Engineering, Circuits, etc. Other NextGen SmartyPants Studio programs like LEGO CAD, Photography, Stop-Motion Animation, UNITY Game Design, and others, can be taken in any order.

How Our Curriculum Works

Experience Levels in the NEXTGEN4 Curriculum correlate the Age / Grade of the Student to the Math and Technical Complexity of the course. In NextGen SmartyPants courses, Students in 5th Grade may initially be building the same robot as a Student in KG; however, they will be asked to modify, design, and apply the math skills appropriate for their grade level.
An an example, Students in Grades 4-6 are typically learning arithmetic concepts of Division, Ratios, and Percentages. So, these Students are introduced to Engineering concepts like Gear Ratio, which is the ratio of teeth of one Gear vs. another. These Students are further asked to calculate, apply, and design an appropriate Gear Ratio for their robot. Further, Students in Grades 7 and above will also learn about Gear Ratios; however, Students in Grades 3 and younger are not taught this concept.
As students continue to grow older, NEXTGEN4 grows with them. NextGen Teacher vary the degree of technical content, math skill requirements, and Engineering complexity of their course, depending on the age and capabilities of the Student.
Experience Levels
"As students grow older,
NEXTGEN4 grows with them."

Learning Dashboard

When we combine the technology disciplines of Robotics with the complexity of Experience Level, we end up with a "Learning Dashboard" organized as follows:
This Dashboard is your guide to selecting NextGen SmartyPants programs and monitoring how your child is learning and progressing through the NEXTGEN4 Curriculum.
At each Experience Level, the program starts with Robotics and is subsequently followed by each of the other disciplines in Engineering, Coding, and Circuits. As a Student grows, their interest in building with LEGO will likely shift to more complex Software Applications or Electronic Studio Arts programs like Photography, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions

My child is 12-years old. Why are they being placed at the Beginner-Level along with other children that are 7-year old?

Engineering at more advanced levels builds on previous experiences and competencies obtained in the lower levels. For example, all Intermediate-Level Robotics programs require:

(1) Understanding Engineering concepts learned in Beginner-Level Robotics programs

(2) Math skills consisting of at least the 5th grade level or higher

In order to succeed with more complex concepts, students will need an understanding of both Engineering mechanisms and the ability to apply the math skills they learn in school. Students that are older will likely progress through the curriculum faster and implement more complex designs than younger students; but they will still require exposure to Beginner Engineering concepts prior to enrolling at Intermediate or higher levels.

My child's age is very different than the other children in the class. How will they receive the education that is most appropriate for their level?

Curricula in many school systems require that the same lesson plan is taught to every child in the class. While this guarantees that no child is left behind, the NEXTGEN4 Curriculum is designed to be customized for each student according to their experiences, interests, and capabilities. These customizations are implemented through increased technical complexity and require the use of higher level of math.

In this way, a child that is in second-grade that has learned addition and subtraction is able to change and modify their project at their level.  Further, it also enables a student that is in fifth-grade to use their skills in division and ratios; a student in eighth-grade to apply geometry; and an 11th-grader to use algebra, trigonometry, and more.

How does NEXTGEN4 "customize" the education for each child?

For each lesson, there is a "Core-Level" of basic project instructions, plus a series of four or more increasingly complex modifications. If a child completes the Core project (which they most likely should), that is fantastic and we celebrate their success! If a child requires greater challenge, they will be asked to implement a first-modification, then a second, and a third, and so on. These "Mods" (as we call them) become more technically complex and require higher levels of math.

Over time, more and more instructions are taken away and each student is asked to utilize what they had learned in previous weeks and to design and create their own solution to a problem. This enables our students to progress at their level, in the manner that they learn best. Students create, design, and implement their own ideas. At this level, our Teacher is there to advise and help them to achieve the goals they set out for themselves. Through this process, we find that our students continue to be motivated, inspired, and excited to learn as they achieve their own successes.

My child learns very quickly and regularly completes the 18+ Adult LEGO sets. I'm concerned that my child will not be challenged enough.

Engineering is complex. The mechanisms can be intricate,  The math can be Greek (literally) at times. NEXTGEN4 effectively truncates the complexity of projects to the level of the child by asking students to create their own goals and design their own solutions to problems.

For example, our BattleBots Robotics course is designed for Ages 7-Adult. During the lesson about Catapults, one student may just be able to get through building, coding, and controlling their Catapult to throw their projectile as provided by the Core instructions. Another student may recognize that the design of the Catapult that they are provided is not a good one and will modify it. Another may learn about Torque, Momentum, and Counterweights. Still another may learn the equations of Projectile Motion and begin to predict exactly where their projectile will land. Our Educators have implemented this process for each lesson and every project in Robotics, Coding, Circuits, Engineering, and other programs, ensuring that each child is able to achieve success at their level.

My child is still young. I'm concerned that my child will be overwhelmed by doing "Engineering."

Our courses in Robotics, Coding, Engineering, and Electrical Circuits are designed for children ages 4-years old and up. The risk of teaching material that is too complex for a child is that they begin to believer they are not capable or are not smart enough to learn Engineering. Instead, NEXTGEN4 helps kids achieve success at their level. We utilize themes like SuperHeroes, Minecraft, and Star Wars to create scenarios and projects that kids get excited about. Our goal is not to turn every child into an Engineer. Rather, by exposing children to STEM concepts, our students see that learning is fun and that they have the capability to achieve more than they thought possible.

Ok, how do we get started?

If this is your child's first time learning with NextGen SmartyPants, we recommend registering for the "Introduction to NextGen Course." This is a 4-week course in Robotics and Coding and is designed to expose your child to STEAM education and see if our program is the right fit for them at this time.

If your child is already excited about a particular topic (for example, LEGO Building or Coding, etc.), we suggest starting with what that and then moving to different subjects from there, according to the Learning Dashboard above. Just be sure they complete courses in each of the Technology Subjects going across before moving up to a higher level.

Finally, if your child is completely open without a preference for a particular topic, take a look at a course in Robotics at their age and experience level.

I still have questions. What should I do?

Setup a time with a NextGen SmartyPants Curriculum Advisor and we will be happy to answer every question you or your child has, as well as, help create a customized learning plan specifically for your child.  Call us at (860) 272-4000 or email us at hello@nextgensmartypants.org.