Through the Classrooms1st partnership, students in kindergarten through second grade at Madison Elementary School have learned how to code! More than 120 students have signed up for and attended computer programming sessions with their parents during this six night event.
Students began their programming adventure by playing Robot Turtles, a board game designed by an engineer for his own children. Parents helped in the process, moving their turtles around the board exactly as the ‘young programmers’ programmed them to do. Following two sessions of coding, parents become masterful at making Robot Turtle noises, while our young programmers mastered codes of 10-15 cards in length and ever increasing complexity.
Our young programmers then advanced to coding on their iPads using Scratch Junior, a program developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Cats spun, fish swam, backgrounds changed, stories were written and characters spoke! Our K2 students easily made the transition from board game to computer and there was no end to their talent and creativity. They capably mastered the next level of complexity, working on a computer screen, and laying down the entire code before running their programs.
During the final two evenings of Kids Can Code our young programmers began to work with the VEX Robotics system. Laptops replaced iPads, and young programmers, with parent help, developed language to turn wheels, specify the number of rotations, move forward and backwards and blink colored lights. VEX Robotics systems are typically used in classrooms in 3rd and 4th grade. Our advancing young programmers easily learned this new ‘second language,’ capably took control and began to apply all they learned to the world of robotics.
Why include parents in the Kids Can Code program? Classrooms 1st is about partnerships, and the most essential partnership in any school is the family. By including parents we were able to design a six night program that advanced young programmers to unbelievable levels. This success was dependent on parents who guided, questioned and helped their children throughout the learning process. Many parents continued the teaching and learning process at home between sessions. Parents are the best teachers our children will ever have. They were amazing partners!
This March, we will bring the Kids Can Code series to parents and children in grades 3 to 5 at Edison Elementary School. Edison families will learn programming through computer deconstruction/reconstruction, Scratch and VEX Robotics.
Why teach computer coding in elementary school? Coding is a critical new type of literacy for our students. Computers and mobile devices have become an essential part of our everyday lives. Early educational experiences in computer coding allow children to think in a logical way and to begin developing methods to create (Technology in Early Childhood 2014). At an early age, children can begin learning how to code computers just like they learn how to read, write and do mathematics.
Research has shown that teaching computer science in grades K12 has the following benefits for students:
- Students gain a deeper knowledge of the fundamentals of computing, which as computing becomes ubiquitous is a critical foundational knowledge that will serve them well throughout their lives.
- Students are exposed to a field that drives innovation and in which job prospects remain strong despite current economic challenges.
- Students gain critical knowledge and skills proven to bolster their success in higher education academic pursuits.
(Computing in the Core 2010)
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