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Penny Street and her class of six year olds at Gosberton Clough and Risegate County Primary School, Lincolnshire, were asked to produce a display for the East of England Show. In this article she explains how they created their own Red Arrow flying display team.

Roamer is a regular part of our Technology time although, with only one in a school of four classes, it cannot be used as frequently as would be liked.

Initially the use of Roamer is on an exploratory basis. A group of two or three children are given Roamer and left to find out how it works - including working out that it has to be switched on. Then, when they are more familiar with it, they are given certain tasks. It might be simply a path to follow, a game to play, an investigation sheet, or the children might be instructed to create a scenario relating to the present class topic.

Our class topic for the summer term was travel and transport and, after looking at road, rail and sea, we moved on to air transport. We had all the usual discussions about holidays abroad, liking or not liking flying and different types of aeroplanes. As a Lincolnshire "flatland" village, we also had plenty of opportunity to observe the RAF in their Tornados, A10s, Bulldog Trainers and Jet Provosts, not to mention the Lancaster, Spitfires and Hurricanes in their nearby museum.

The result of these discussions and observations was that the children brought in a variety of related items, but mainly models and books. It was from one of these books that the idea of the Red Arrows was born.

During one session using Roamer, a group was asked to set up a scene using Lasy, and to use Roamer as a vehicle of air transport. The girls in the group started to build an airport, while the boys decided to decorate one of the Roamer jackets as an aeroplane. The red jacket inspired the idea of a Red Arrow. This was immediately dismissed because they only had one Roamer, and one Red Arrow by itself is no good. So on that occasion the aircraft owed more to imagination than reality.

However, when we found that we had been invited to the East of England Show and that we would have access to four Roamers and four red jackets, the Red Arrows was the obvious choice.

The actual production of the models was quite difficult to achieve because, although the children had a picture to follow, as Infants their visual awareness was not developed enough for them to be able to work out wing angles and tail positions, or to balance the size of the different parts. They became quite frustrated with their efforts so, because I felt is was important for them to achieve something of which they could be proud, I made a prototype which they were able to copy.

Once the jackets had been decorated, the only chance to practise was with our single Roamer, so the children did not get the full picture until the show itself.

Bearing in mind that these were 6 year olds with very limited programming skills, most of the programming was done by the children under close guidance. The demonstration program was useful as it was the simplest method of getting all four Roamers to operate in the same way; but even here a valuable teaching point cropped up when one of the batteries started to run down and one Red Arrow fell out of formation.

The children were very pleased when they did manage to have all four operating correctly and I felt that the display was something that gave them a real sense of achievement.

Roamer is clearly a very useful teaching aid, and one that helps fulfil many of the criteria in the English National Curriculum. Apart from its obvious Technology uses, it promotes discussion (English 1), helps in the teaching of direction and distance (Mathematics 8 11 12) and encourages the children to use their imagination and develop their creativity.

It is very robust and far more reliable than the earlier Big Trak and its ability to play a tune is an added attraction.

With two or more Roamers the challenge of programming synchronised movements can be developed around a host of themes. The movements can be identical, opposite/mirrored or designed to intersect.
Ballroom dancing
Synchronised swimming (don't put Roamer in the water)
Ice skating
Motorbike display teams
Marching bands
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