Hillcrest ES students learning to speak code - Pinterest

Hillcrest ES students learning
to speak language of code

 
Click the image below to watch a video about one student's experience.

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A group of Hillcrest Elementary School students is learning the basics of computer programming thanks to the school’s new Coding Club, where 4th- and 5th-graders are exercising their critical-thinking skills and channeling their creativity to give life to digital characters on a computer screen.

The club’s founders, 5th-grade bilingual teacher Gisella Calejo and librarian Jennifer Grimes, say students are learning important 21st-century skills and having fun in the process.

“The students always have a lot of fun because each of their projects is personalized and allows them to express their creativity, all while learning the fundamentals of computer programming,” Grimes said. “It also reinforces critical-thinking and problem-solving skills taught in the classroom.

”With computer programming being a fast-growth field – jobs are growing at twice the national average, according to Code.org – computer science in K-12 education is getting national attention, including with events such as the Hour of Code, held the week of Dec. 9 to provide an opportunity for every student to try computer science for one hour.

While the computer programming Hillcrest students are learning is optional through the club, Highlands HS began this year requiring all freshmen to learn computer coding through the online CodeHS program.

The Hillcrest students are learning coding through Scratch, a free online program designed by MIT students that allows users to give their digital characters, called sprites, movement commands using pre-coded blocks that interlock on screen. Students can choose backgrounds, make their sprites dance, spin or twirl, and music can be assigned to their projects.

Calejo came up with the idea for the club when she and Grimes were brainstorming a stewardship project for Region 20’s Cohort of Leadership Associates program. They wanted a project that would be fun for and beneficial to students. In addition to sharpening their critical-thinking skills and promoting creativity, the coding lessons also have fostered teamwork, with students helping one another when they hit roadblocks.

“The students came in thinking they would be creating apps and games on Day 1,” Calejo said. “They soon realized that it was going to take more than one day to learn the skills necessary to code.”