‘Hour of Code’ lays foundation for programmers

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Jasper High School junior Taylor Greulich, right, watches as Fifth Street Elementary second-grader Aubrianna Mayo showed off her Kodable Maze during Wednesday's Hour of Code at Fifth Street Elementary in Jasper. Around 25 students from Jasper High School visited students at Ireland Elementary and Fifth Street Elementary on Wednesday to talk about computer coding. 

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

JASPER — The next generation of computer programmers practiced their coding skills Wednesday afternoon at Fifth Street School.

Students from Jasper High School’s Advanced Placement computer science class visited the second-graders at Fifth Street to lead the younger students through an Hour of Code activity in celebration of national Computer Science Education Week.

The initiative is part of a push for STEM education in schools across the nation. Wednesday afternoon’s lesson was one of several the high school students are leading in Jasper elementary schools this week.

Junior Madison Foley and Senior Grant Keller started their lesson with a live representation of simple coding. Using three commands — move forward, move right and move left — the second-graders had to move Grant, who represented a computer, from the blackboard to the door. The class almost got Grant to the door, but at the last few steps ran him into a wall.

“That’s called a bug,” Madison explained. “We have to remove the bug to make the program work correctly.”

The students backed up a few steps and moved Grant to the door.

Fifth Street Elementary second-grader Micah Javier works on his Kodable Maze during Wednesday's Hour of Code at Fifth Street Elementary in Jasper.

After that, the second-graders logged onto Kodable, an online resource that teaches students in kindergarten through 12th grade coding techniques. Kodable is set up like a video game and leads students through block coding — fitting puzzle pieces together into a simple code — to guide a blue fuzz ball through a maze.

According to code.org, block coding is used for beginning computer science students at all levels, including university. The blocks represent chunks of JavaScript, a common computer code language, and get the students used to breaking tasks into simple steps to solve problems. Each block told the fuzz ball to move one maze square in a certain direction. The students could choose forward, up or down. As the students progressed through the levels, the mazes became more complicated.

“It’s not that hard to do,” said second-grader Finley Ward. “If you get something wrong, you just fix it.”

Elementary students don’t only use Kodable during Computer Science Education Week. Teacher Karen Pieper said students often log on to the site during free time in class and during STEM instruction.

Although Kodable and similar exercises, such as those on code.org, seem more like video games than coursework, the puzzles lay a foundation for the computer programming Jasper High School students use in the computer science and robotics programs.

Jasper High School senior Grant Keller helps Fifth Street Elementary second-grader Yisel Ramirez Menjivar, left, work on her Kodable Maze while junior Madison Foley helps second-grader Sable Blunk with her maze during Wednesday's Hour of Code at Fifth Street Elementary in Jasper.

“What the robotics team does is very similar to what these kids are doing with the blue fuzz,” said Marci Showalter, the e-learning coach for Jasper middle and high schools. 

And Madison said she’s still using the same simple commands the second-graders worked with in her computer science class.

“You always start with those three,” she said. “Then it gets more complicated.”

If the second-graders stick with computer programming classes through high school, by the time they graduate they’ll be able to code entire games.

“It’s fun,” Grant said. “I like tinkering with (computers).”

From the smiles on the second-graders’ faces, it seemed they liked tinkering with the code, too.

Jasper High School junior Madison Foley helps Fifth Street Elementary second-graders Sable Blunk, left, and Cayleb Racicot work on their Kodable Maze during Wednesday's Hour of Code at Fifth Street Elementary in Jasper.



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