“I am hoping that this exposure at the Lower School to Hour of Code will inspire some students to spend the countless hours that some of them do on technology, creating instead of simply consuming.” — Mrs. Koos
1. What is the “Hour of Code”?
All Lower School students participated last week in the Hour of Code. It was an international initiative to expose students to computer programming. The students couldn’t get enough! In STEM Lab with Mrs. Nimocks, our youngest learners did activities and used apps such as Kodable on the iPad. Our Elementary Division did the official activities on the Hour of Code website: http://csedweek.org/learn. If you haven’t checked them out, please do so. It was designed for people ages 6 to 106! The organizers wanted everyone to see how coding is present in all of our lives.
The tutorials involved students as they learned the basics of computer programming. The first module started with the red bird from Angry Birds getting the piggy. The organizers of Hour of Code certainly knew that through games students are highly motivated to learn. The students loved seeing how many lines of code they had done in an hour! As I visited classrooms, I enjoyed seeing adults and students collaborating on a particular challenge as many administrators and enrichment teachers joined in on the fun too! Mr. Smith reported to me that the students loved doing it in the Aftercare program as well.
2. What do you hope our students will take away from participating in this project?
Anyone can code! It is not just for high school students or just for boys or just for the super “smart” kids or whatever stereotype they have in their mind. Also, I want students to have a broader picture of what computer scientists do. They work in so many different areas: writing apps for phones, curing diseases, creating animated movies, working on social media, building robots that explore other planets and so much more. There are estimates that by 2020, there will be more than a million unfilled programming jobs in the United States because there aren’t qualified people to fill them.
I am hoping that this exposure at the Lower School to Hour of Code will inspire some students to spend the countless hours that some of them do on technology, creating instead of simply consuming. Lastly, learning how to program teaches you how to think! We can all benefit from more of that.
3. Why is computer science and engineering important for students at these young ages?
I have been doing some research recently in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) and was slightly surprised to learn that interest in STEM was more indicative of a student selecting a STEM major and entering a STEM career than ability in STEM. It seems a lot of the focus has been designing a curriculum where kids are successful in the top math courses. As former math department chair at the Upper School, I love math and am proud of the excellent math curriculum and our tremendous track record in Advanced Placement courses such as Calculus. Does it matter if we graduate students who have mastered Calculus, but hate STEM so much they avoid it like the plague in college? Programs like this one are designed to get students excited about STEM and wanting to learn more.
4. Will this be a one-time project or will students participate each year?
We have caught the coding bug at the Lower School! This is definitely NOT a one-time project. These past two weeks I have been doing Scratch classes before school for interested fifth and sixth graders. Scratch is an educational programming language that the students were exposed to in the first lesson of Hour of Code that I mentioned with the Angry Bird. It can be used for a range of constructivist projects as well as making games. Mrs. Schultz will be doing Scratch with students in third grade and Mrs. Nimocks will be in fourth grade, this Spring. Mrs. Nimocks, in STEM lab, is incorporating coding types of activities into her existing curriculum with other grade levels as well.
We have a Lower School Robotics team that formed this fall with our older Elementary students which is being coached by preschool parent, Dr. Doug Rauscher. He is also interested in doing something extracurricular with younger students. The school recently purchased a Bee Bot which is a programmable floor robot, ideal for teaching young children control, directional language and programming for this endeavor.
I am pleased to announce an opportunity for interested third through sixth grade students and their parents to work together on Scratch. I have heard from parents that they want to learn too! On Friday, January 17, from 5:30 – 8:30 pm in Parish Hall, we’ll be running a workshop on Scratch designed for parent/child teams of two. We’ll have pizza at 5:30 and a brief orientation and then the parent/child pairs will get to work on a project. Register now because space is limited!
Head of Lower School
Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy