YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Computer students from five Yorktown schools recently took part in a global initiative known as the “Hour of Code.”
The brief introduction to computer science uses grade-appropriate lessons to teach the basics of programming and coding, which is the art of writing statements in a certain computer “language.”
The ultimate goal, educators say, is to spark an interest in computer science in younger students.
Students at the Crompond Elementary School watched a short “Star Wars” video for inspiration and then tried stringing together some coding on their own.
The school’s library media specialist, Mark Creiner, tried to convey the relevance of what they were learning to students.
“What do books, video games, cell phones and toys all have in common?” he asked the fourth-graders. “Coding, programming are needed to make all of these.”
Fourth-grader Christopher Diroma, who said he likes using the computer programming language Java to create animated stories, dove right in.
“It is fun. I like to create it, watch it, and share it,” Christopher said.
Science students at the Mildred E. Strang Middle School used simulations and activities from the official “Hour of Code” website.
This, educators said, gave them an understanding of the applications of computer technology.
These lessons jibes with the district’s emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning.
Yorktown High School librarian Shannon Mersand said learning coding is a great way to get students to share ideas and learn how to work as a team.
“The high school students have been designing activities to do with the third-grade students that allow them to explore programing and computational thinking in a number of different ways,” Mersand said.
Students use activities, robots and apps that are designed to teach computer science concepts. They included: Ozobots, Dash and Dot, Puzzles, binary jewelry, robot friends, Makey Makey, Scratch, Scratch Jr., and Hopscotch.
The lessons learned went beyond mere coding and programing.
Students also learned about the importance of flexibility, creativity and tenacity.
Brookside third-grader Denise Murataj was among those eager to share their impressions.
“I really enjoyed Scratch, Jr.,” Denise said. “I learned that you should never give up and also be creative.”
“You can invent anything if you never give up,” chimed in classmate Colin Worden.
“I learned that by working together, our group could do anything. I know that because at first we were all making our own mazes for the Ozobots, but when we worked together we made a huge maze that all the Ozobots could cruise in,” added student Emily Whalen.
The high schoolers who helped teach Brookside and Mohansic third-graders had fun and learned new things as well.
“It was interesting to see their eyes light up when they finally figured it out," said Meaghan Brady.
"They were able to come up with other ideas because they really understood what they were doing,” added Emily Olivier.
For Julie Kelly, it was all about communication.
“I learned that explaining what was happening was tricky, but by the end I knew what kinds of vocabulary to use to make them understand,” she said.
The “Hour of Code” movement is said to reach students in more than 180 countries.