Isabella, a first grader at Hasty Elementary and Fine Arts Academy clicks blocks together on an iPad to write a computer program. She is creating animations to tell stories about creatures in the ocean.
After some finishing touches, she presses the green flag button to start the fish and seahorses swimming, but notices that the crab doesn’t walk like it should. With a little more debugging, she smiles to see that all is working and her story is complete!
It’s part of the Hour of Code, an international effort to teach programming to students of all ages. Millions of students in 180 countries have participated, focusing on December and Computer Science Education Week.
It’s a much-needed initiative. Computers are everywhere, changing every industry on the planet, but fewer than half of all schools teach computer science. And many students think that a technology education and career path is out of reach for them.
Hasty Elementary School and Fine Arts Academy is working to change this: to show that any student, regardless of age or background, can learn valuable technical skills such as computer programming.
The school’s Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Lab uses programs such as Hour of Code to prepare students for a high-tech future. STEAM Lab director Rebekah Holt and paraprofessional Cindy Wright partner with Canton-area engineers who help teach these sessions. During each Code Day, six classes (kindergarten through fifth grade) rotate through the STEAM Lab to join the fun.
Each hour of code starts with activities to teach basic programming concepts, such as using dance moves to teach sequences, loops, and functions. The students then work together on iPads to apply these concepts. They snap together blocks of code to create programs. Older kids write programs to create artwork with the Disney Frozen characters, while younger students create stories about changing seasons or ocean creatures using ScratchJr.
Derek Williams, a Code Day volunteer notes, “Tools such as code.org and ScratchJr make programming fun and accessible to all ages. In the past, students had to first learn rigid languages before they could program, so learning was often deferred until high school. Block programming removes this barrier and lets younger kids shine. Six- to twelve-year old kids love to create and explore, and the Hasty students have proven that you’re never too young to code.”
More Code Days are planned for next semester, and later the STEAM Lab plans to sponsor an after-school technology club. These will provide more opportunities for community volunteers to help and share their experience.