Robots. It’s a concept that has fascinated children and adults alike. My son went through a huge robot phase. He danced like a robot, watched robot movies, and even had a robot-themed 4th birthday party. Now that he is in the upper elementary school, I thought it would be a great time to read this exciting book. In addition, we wanted to share his 5 classroom activities for The Wild Robot with you.
We live in such an exciting and interesting time as robotic technology, or AI, has become a norm for us. From Siri on our phones to Alexa in our homes, from ChapGPT to robot vacuums, we are living on the precipice of a robot revolution. Scary or exciting? Are we on the verge of living like The Jetsons or living life under their rule like in I, Robot with Will Smith?
Peter Brown explores this concept of robots in our world in his novel, The Wild Robot. The first of three books for upper elementary to middle school students, Peter Brown tells a story about a futuristic world in which robots are in every home. Robots are a huge billion-dollar industry and are manufactured like candy in factories. Just like a pet is commonplace in many homes, servant robots are also. When a shipment of robots crashes onto an island, readers see first-hand how a robot might be able to survive in the wild.
Can a robot survive in the wilderness? When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is all alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is–but she knows she needs to survive. After battling a violent storm and escaping a vicious bear attack, she realizes that her only hope for survival is to adapt to her surroundings and learn from the island’s unwelcoming animal inhabitants. As Roz slowly befriends the animals, the island starts to feel like home–until, one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her. From bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator Peter Brown comes a heartwarming and action-packed novel about what happens when nature and technology collide.
We highly recommend The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. It explores the concept of robotics and how it contrasts so vividly with nature. It also shows friendship and transformation, adoption, and protection. The Wild Robot explores so many interesting ideas that are prevalent in our world today. We have five activities you can complete with The Wild Robot.
#1 Create a Robot
The features of Roz, the robotic main character are super interesting. She can adapt to her surroundings, take in situations around her, and then adjust her hardware to match. Roz watches the animals on the island. She observes their patterns and languages and is able to easily mimic their way of life to communicate and survive. She learns how to improve her performance based on her experiences, allowing her to show kindness, compassion, strength, survival skills, and perseverance. As I was reading this with my fourth-grade son, (as a former teacher, I now homeschool) he immediately started talking about if he had a robot and what features that robot would have. Once students read this book, they’ll be chomping at the bit to create their own robots.
My son’s robot, The Money Maker.
Task your class to draw a colored sketch of their robot. Have them describe their robot in writing and answer the following questions.
- *What is your robot’s name?
- *What does your robot do that is special?
- *What does your robot look like?
- *How can your robot adapt and change?
- *How is your robot helpful?
Then, have students create a robot using whatever materials they would like. Perhaps your classroom has a Maker Space and they can create their robot at school. Maybe, students would like to go home and build a robot out of Lego pieces, wood, or even actual robotic pieces from a kit. This would become a STEM activity fairly quickly if robotic technology was incorporated.
Allow your students the flexibility to create their robot in any way they want. My son ended up using wood and coins to create his robot, the Money Maker. He said this was one of his favorite activities all school year long.
#2 Explore Conflicts
It is important to explore all the differing types of conflicts when reading. The main types of conflict are Character vs Character, Character vs Self, Character vs Society, Character vs Nature, and Character vs Technology. In The Wild Robot, all of these conflicts are explored heavily, making this the perfect novel to teach this standard.
When Roz is faced with animals thinking she is a literal monster, we have Character vs Character and even Character vs Nature. When Roz realizes she accidentally kills a family of geese, she faces feelings of a need to redeem the situation as she’s intent on adopting the surviving gosling, Brightbill, and raising him. The concept of Character vs Self is explored more as Roz develops and transforms into a mother.
Character vs Society is explored as Roz must befriend whole groupings of animals in the society of the island. For instance, she wins over a family of beavers who end up helping her build a shelter for her and her newly adopted son.
Character vs Nature is displayed when Roz must face the winter as all the animals do. She must survive bears who want to eat her and initially, she survived a hurricane when her cargo ship crashed on the island.
Character vs Technology is the most heavily explored theme as the animals must face the idea of Roz and how her technology could actually improve her way of life. Roz, herself, faces technology as RECOS, rifle-wielding robots come after Roz to take her back to her manufacturer.
#3 Roz’s Transformation
When we first meet Roz, she is accidentally powered on by some curious otters. We learn that she is a robot that expects someone to assign tasks to her, but since no one is there to be her owner, she explores the island freely. Her sole objective, at first, is to remain purposeful and protect herself from harm so she can be a functional robot.
As the story progresses, so does Roz. She learns the behaviors and languages of the various animals. She develops a type of robotic empathy and mothering instinct for the gosling she adopts as she learns how to be a caretaker from a goose mother. Roz learns to alter her voice to make it sound like she has feelings so other animals will respond to her better. She learns to show kindness as she takes in animals during the winter and builds them warm fires. The Wild Robot explores character development as Roz adapts and morphs and becomes a part of the island she inhabits.
Check out our free The Wild Robot conflict graphic organizer below.
Roz’s Character Development Project
Students can create a before, middle, and after of Roz as her character develops. This is a no-prep activity works with any novel. Students divide a piece of paper into three parts. At the top, write Roz’s Transformation and at the top of the three sections, write Beginning, Middle, & End.
In each of the three parts, students draw Roz as she appears at the beginning, middle, and end of the book. There are noticeable physical differences such as Roz having a wooden trunk as a foot near the end of the book. In each section, students write the various character traits of Roz.
Noticeable differences start to take shape as the story progresses. If you are doing this task with middle schoolers, then have them write a quote or two for each section plus the character traits to show text-based evidence. Students can easily see how the main character undergoes a transformation throughout the course of the book.
#4 Explore the Dangers of Robotic Technology
Now is a wonderful time to read The Wild Robot. If you peruse the current news, there’s always some sort of daily announcement about new robotic technology or AI. Yet, is this robotic technology safe? Is this something we should be exploring? Invite your students to this discussion, and they can explore their opinion and thoughts in various writing prompts as you read a variety of articles on this topic.
Sign up for free to view robotic news articles for students: https://online.kidsdiscover.com/
This website has articles on how robotics is in our everyday lives already to the science behind self-driving cars. There is also an article on how nature inspires robots, which is a fitting complementary read to The Wild Robot.
Here are more kid-friendly articles about robots:
Older students can explore the ethics of robotic technology, aka, AI. Should they be able to use Chat GPT to help them do their homework? Is using an Alexa to answer questions really helpful? When does technology cross the line from helpful to harmful or from helpful to cheating? How was Roz harmful at times? How was she helpful?
Should mankind use robots in warfare, like as the RECOS rifle-wielding robots in the novel? What about the autonomous robots like the RECOS be allowed to make life-and-death decisions on the battlefield? Should robots be allowed to take care of children, the elderly, or individuals with disabilities? Discuss the ethical challenges of robot-human relationships, such as human emotional attachment to robots or the potential for robots to manipulate. We do see how Roz develops relationships and forms a pseudo-human attachment to the animals she befriends.
#5 Explore Nature and Science
Even though a huge theme of The Wild Robot is technology, another theme explored is animals and nature. While reading, students encounter so many different types of animals on the island from otters to goslings, from fish to foxes, and from beavers to deer. Students learn about their behavior patterns, what they eat, and what they instinctually do such as geese traveling south for the winter, beavers building dams, or predators hunting certain prey. The contrasting theme of robots against the backdrop of nature is fascinating as students can learn about animals and science as well.
As I read this novel with my son, we kept a list of each animal we encountered, their names, their character traits, and their animal traits. Then, I had my son choose an animal to research from the list. He completed a research report on the animal of his choice to learn even more about it.
We love supporting other teachers and their TpT businesses. We used the following research project. Plus, it’s free!
The Wild Robot has so many opportunities for activities and discussion surrounding robotics, nature, character conflicts, and transformations, as well as the creation of a robot. If you teach upper elementary to middle school, place The Wild Robot on your must-read and must-teach list. It is a wild ride of adventure and a riveting read.