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Turtle Art Curriculum

Project of Olin College. This lab-based curriculum is designed to teach a variety of math and engineering concepts through Turtle Art. It will be running for the first time as a after school program for 3rd - 5th graders at John Eliot Elementary School in Needham, MA in spring 2010.


We had our first class (7 boys, range 2nd - 5th grade) on February 24, 2010. Our notes (brief overview of what we did, what we thought, what we plan to do) can be found below as super informal documents. Any comments/suggestions/feedback is appreciated!

Follow our blog posts here as well!

  • Week 1: Introduction - Feb 24, 2010
  • Week 2: Turtle Art + Maze - March 3, 2010
  • Week 3: Letters + Letters - March 11, 2010
  • Week 4 |: More opened ended - March 24, 2010
  • Week 5: Repeat

After week 4 - 5, we strayed from our proposed structure, and let the kids pretty much play with TurtleArt as they desired. Coming soon -- some screenshots, sample code from the programs they produced.

  • Summary: Our reflections on the experience as a whole

Skills and Concepts

The following is a list of what we hope the students will be able to learn from this program. Due to time constraints, it is probably that some of the robotics items will not get covered this semester.

  • angles and lengths
  • geometric interpretations of algebraic expressions
  • geometric intuition
  • precise language
  • variables
  • repetition
  • recursion
  • human interface
  • robotics(using the XOBot)
    • sensors
    • motors
    • manual control
    • sensor-based control

Some of these skills and concepts are things we hope that the students will pick up just by using Turtle Art, such as precise language. However, for many of them we have designed a lab specifically to introduce that concept.


  • Introduction to Turtle Art:
    • draw your name
    • convert a drawing into a Turtle Art program
    • make your own drawing in Turtle Art
  • Repetition:
    • circularly symmetric patterns
    • quadrilateral tessellation
  • Angles and lengths:
    • make regular polygons
  • Geometric interpretations of algebraic expressions:
    • make a visual representation of an equation (e.g. 3+4=7 could be represented with three lines)
  • Variables:
    • rectangular and circular color spectra
  • Recursion
    • Spiral
    • Top hat fractal
    • Sierpinski's triangle
  • Interfacing with people:
    • control turtle from keyboard, make a turtleart game
  • Interfacing with motors:
    • hook up to the xobot
  • Interfacing with sensors:
    • Turtle Art oscilloscope
  • Manual control:
    • move the xobot with a mouse click
  • Sensor control:
    • move the xobot to a particular distance from another xo

Contributor's Program Application