By Ray Huard ….. Mysterious, strange and perplexing are how some may see computer coding, but not students from kindergarten on up at several schools in the Vista Unified School District.
Students at Casita Center Elementary prepare for the international Hour Of Code “For the kids, it’s more like playing a game,” said Lindsay Freestone, assistant principal at Lake Elementary School.
In one of the basic coding games, the player has to figure out how to make a character move along a path of tiles and tell the computer which way the character should go.
“It kind of acts out whatever sequence you came up with,” Freestone said. “It’s about the logic and the processing.” The Hour of Code was a huge hit at Roosevelt Middle School, said Principal Elise Ochenduszko.
“You could feel the energy, the excitement,” Ochenduszko said. “They certainly learned critical thinking skills. They were problem solving, they were collaborating. When they were stuck, they reached over to their neighbor.”
After trying one of the coding games herself, Ochenduszko said “I can see why it was really fun. I can see why the kids were so engaged.”
At Lake Elementary, students in third through fifth grade took part in the Hour of Code and Principal Krista Bernsten said some were so excited that they did advance research at home to get ready. “It really connects with what they’re interested in,” Bernsten said.
The idea behind the Hour of Code is to expose kids to the skills they’ll need in almost any job of the future, said Shannon Garcia, principal at Bobier Elementary School.
“Getting them really young and getting them introduced to computer science is huge,” Garcia said. “It was a really neat experience.”
For one hour on a Friday, “the entire school, kindergarten through fifth grade, every single student was coding,” Garcia said. “Everyone was doing something.”
Bobier Elementary School students participate in the Hour Of Code
At Casita Center for Technology, Science & Math, all 575 students from kindergarten through fifth grade were on their computers for an hour or more for the Hour of Code event, said Principal Laura Smith.
Smith even took a crash course in coding and took over a second grade class for the Hour of Code event.
“I thought if I can do it, then anybody can do it,” Smith said. As a magnet school, Casita has started offering computer coding as an elective course, Smith said. “That really came from our parents,” Smith said. “We asked our parents, ‘What do you want your students to be doing?’ and they said, ‘We want them to be able to code.’”
The school also has after-school innovation labs in which third, fourth and fifth graders work at coding, said teacher Jenny Anderson.
The Hour of Code expanded the coding programs for a day to all students, Smith said. To prepare for the event, Anderson put together a coding tutorial and a list of coding resources, which Smith sent to other principals in the district to encourage them to participate.
“I thought, ‘This is great, we want more kids to code’,” Anderson said. To show parents what their students would be doing during the Hour of Code, a group of Casitas fifth graders also held an advance two-hour coding workshop for families in which the students became the teachers, Anderson said.
Anne Green, principal of Vista Magnet Middle School of Technology, said the Hour of Code was “a shot in the arm” for the school’s plan to ramp up its coding activities. “The kids are very excited about moving forward with more of that,” Green said. “This fall, we had a high school computer science teacher come to teach high school level coding to our middle school students after school.”
School Superintendent Devin Vodicka said the Hour of Code helped emphasize the importance of “digital literacy.”
“Providing our leaners with opportunities to experience coding is an excellent way to develop logical thinking and to build models that deepen and enrich our understanding,” Vodicka said.