For one week in early December, elementary students throughout the district learned the principles of computer coding in enrichment classes and library sessions. Then they took it a step further and spent 466 hours that week either in class or at home practicing what they learned.
Elementary enrichment teacher Kim Honeck and librarians Marie Volpe and Jennifer Patterson started teaching students computer coding using the free Hour of Code section on www.code.org. On the site, students can choose themes that appeal to them such as Minecraft, Star Wars or Frozen.
Each theme moves the students through various levels of puzzles that use drag-and-drop boxes to code movement on the screen. The puzzles start out easy and get harder as the lessons progress. The students can redo a puzzle level if they get it wrong.
This introduction was meant to engage kindergarten through fifth-graders with the concept of coding and it worked. The students were asked to record how many hours they spent practicing on www.code.org and during the week-long campaign, 693 students participated with 466 hours of practice.
Fourth-grader Arianna Battaglia in Christine Witherell’s class earned the distinction of recording the most time with 10 hours and 44 minutes.
The district’s STEAM coordinator Renee Brady, working together with Mrs. Honeck and Mrs. Volpe and Mrs. Patterson, promoted the initiative which was part of a national Computer Science Education Week from Dec. 7-11. It also included a career segment where a guest speaker from Praxair explained various engineering career fields in her company and how a student’s interests could relate to a specific engineering discipline.
During one instruction session at Mullen, Mrs. Honeck urged students in Mrs. Fox’s class to be thoughtful and do some problem-solving. She showed the students how to drag and click the boxes together and the button that translates the drag and drop boxes into JAVA script, the coding language.
“This is awesome. It’s a puzzle. And when you are done doing it, you can see it move,” said Mullen third-grader Olivia Radice. She was partnering with Matthew Schmutzler who said, “You can see what made it go.”
The puzzles require reading, problem solving and can reinforce math concepts. For instance, in the Code with Anna and Elsa from the Frozen theme, users are asked to create stars using angles.
“You can make your own games and puzzles,” said Mullen third-grader Morgan Scott. Her partner, Alexander Dinse, thought it was pretty awesome that he could make the figures move.
At Fletcher during library instruction, students saw how coded instructions could make a Lego Mindstorm robot move. The robot is constructed from Lego pieces and holds a computer “brick” where the coding can be downloaded to make it do various actions including moving, turning and throwing balls.
“From the excitement in the air, I feel they
are most definitely interested,” said Jennifer Patterson, library media
specialist at Fletcher.
“This is not a subject taught at school, but there are so many computer science jobs,” said Mrs. Honeck. “We are getting to these students when they are younger. It’s their first introduction to coding.”