KinderLab Robotics Debuts AI Curriculum for Young Learners


Waltham, MA KinderLab Robotics, a leader in educational STEAM robotics for grades pre-K–5, has launched Thinking with KIBO: Introducing Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Early Grades, a free curriculum designed to help students understand how AI tools work and think critically about how these tools can improve lives in their communities.

Designed for students in grades 1–3, each of the lessons allow students to explore fundamental ideas about AI through activities with the hands-on and screen-free KIBO robot. Thinking with KIBO engages with computer science concepts in K–5, alongside evolving content standards in artificial intelligence. The curriculum is ideal for a 5–6 week unit in computer science or technology/media classes, as well as afterschool programs, enrichment centers, libraries, makerspaces, and more.

“We can make advanced and abstract ideas like AI accessible to young kids when we stick with what works in early childhood: hands-on experience with physical manipulatives and playful opportunities for self-directed knowledge construction,” said Jason Innes, director of curriculum, training, and product management at KinderLab Robotics. “KIBO provides a research-proven method to explore computer science, engineering, and now AI concepts in early childhood STEM education.” 

Thinking with KIBO is aligned with the draft AI4K12 curriculum guidelines, which explore the “Five Big Ideas in AI”: Sensing, Representation and Reasoning, Learning, Natural Interaction, and Social Impact. These guidelines, a collaboration between AAAI and CSTA, frame AI education as an important component of K–12 computer science education.

“Children today are growing up in a world saturated with artificial intelligence technology,” said David S. Touretzky, professor at Carnegie Mellon University and chair of the AI4K12 Steering Committee. “It’s never too early to teach them the basics of AI and computing, which is why the AI4K12 Guidelines begin with kindergarten.”

Although there are important questions about how AI tools will and should be used in the classroom, KinderLab’s new curriculum instead centers on teaching children how AI works. Featuring four 60-minute lessons and a fifth lesson that can be extended from one to two hours, the core learning objectives of the new curriculum include:

  • AI is a tool made by people. Artificial intelligence can sometimes seem like magic, but it is just a tool created by human engineers. This understanding can help demystify AI and, for some students, make it seem less scary.
  • AI systems (and robots!) make decisions based on input and rules. Both robots and AI rely on what engineers call the “sense – think – act” cycle. The systems take input, decide what to do based on rules, and then take action. Humans design the sensors, the rules, and the actions. An AI system’s rules can be very complicated, and the rules can even change over time through machine learning, but they are still rules.
  • AI doesn’t think like people do, and it’s not alive. Although we use the words “artificial intelligence,” the intelligence of these systems is different from human intelligence. In fact, AI systems don’t really “think” the way we do at all. They can’t choose what to do outside of their rules or come up with new ideas, and they aren’t aware of themselves the way people are.
  • AI can help people solve difficult problems. Even though AI doesn’t really think, AI is still an amazing tool for helping us think by processing far more information than people are able to. Exploring the uses of these systems will help students understand how AI can be used responsibly; and it might even inspire them to work on developing AI themselves!

To learn more about Thinking with KIBO: Introducing Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Early Grades, or to download the curriculum for free, visit KinderLabRobotics.com/ai.

About KinderLab Robotics

KinderLab Robotics is the creator of the award-winning KIBO, a playful educational STEAM robot kit based on 20+ years of child development research with thousands of children, teachers, and parents. Developed specifically for teachers by Dr. Marina Umaschi Bers from Boston College, KIBO is currently used in 70+ countries and has proven efficacy in helping kids in pre-k–5th grade learn STEAM—and getting them excited about it! KinderLab offers a complete suite of teaching materials that help integrate STEAM elements into a wide range of curricula, including art, cultural studies, and reading literacy. For more information, please visit KinderLabRobotics.com

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