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Monday March 14, 2016 at 10:38am Age: 3 yrs
Category: District, Intermediate


A new, exciting and game-changing enrichment program is capturing the undivided attention of 5th grade students at the intermediate school computer lab. It’s the Hour of Code, a once-a-week computer science course that focuses on critical thinking and incorporates core curriculum subjects and skills, such as math and science.


Possibly the quietest hour on the schedules of 5th grade teachers Michael Conklin and Justin Swart, this enrichment program exposes students to, an online coding tool developed by the creator of Internet Explorer.  Students are currently being introduced to the binary language of computers and learning how algorithms relate to coding.  Sound boring? Overwhelming? Not with, which bills itself as an organization and global movement committed to making computer science education fun, free and accessible to every child in schools around the world. And so it is that intermediate school students who speak more than one language are interchanging lessons in English with Spanish and Mandarin versions of 


Student Ronnie appreciates experiencing “something new” and more hands-on. “We can’t do this with the Smart Board,” she said. Using simple commands, 5th grader Garrett was programming the moves of “angry birds” through a maze. “This is pretty fun. It’s confusing at first, but it makes you think rather than just giving you the answer,” he said. “It helps you find the right way to solve a problem,” Leo added. 


Problem-solving, as related to math and science, is one of the primary goals of the program. “It’s part of understanding the numerical function as a computer function,” said Mr. Swart. As such, some students were estimating pixels to create structures and buildings. “The level of difficulty is progressive, but some students are going faster than we are teaching them, and moving several stages ahead,” said Mr. Conklin.  Upcoming lessons and concepts include looping—using the same command over and over—and how to eliminate steps by streamlining the commands. In a subsequent unit, students will also learn how to debug a program.


“This is better than I expected. Maybe in the future we can make our own website,” Jasmine said. Gabe had other plans: “I may want to learn how to make games. Adventure and action games,” he said.


But the doors the Hour of Code can open for students are very much grounded in the real world. According to Mr. Conklin, an estimated 100,000 coding jobs go unfilled every year.


Parents are encouraged to check out with their children. Free, one-hour tutorials for all ages are available in over 40 languages. It’s never too late to learn to code.