As part of its commitment to incorporating STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and math) into the curriculum, Collegiate School students are participating in the Hour of Code over the next two weeks, joining a worldwide effort to demystify code, show that anyone can learn the basics and broaden participation in computer science.
The Hour of Code, held for one week in December, reaches tens of millions of students in nearly 200 countries. This is Collegiate’s third year of taking part, and to enhance the event, Collegiate has declared Dec. 1-16 Computer Science Education month.
Upper School and Middle School students attended a statewide Hour of Code kickoff at the Science Museum of Virginia, where they demonstrated a new virtual reality painting tool called Tilt Brush and unveiled a soapbox derby dragster they built that is powered by four carbon dioxide fire extinguishers. The car is also equipped with force sensors, an open-source electronics platform and strips of programmable LEDs that provide a visual representation of the applied force when it is pushed. The vehicle is being incorporated into Collegiate’s Lower School science classes and Upper School physics classes.
Dan Bell, Middle School technology teacher, and Daniel Bartels, Middle and Upper School STEAM Coordinator, are working with the entire 5th Grade on improving their coding skills via an “interactive fiction” program called Inform 7. The program teaches students universal coding functions by utilizing clear commands that students then use to program interactive maps and games. The two teachers are also collaborating to teach 6th Grade students higher level language-based coding via Arduino boards, which are hands-on engineering-focused circuit boards that students program to light up an attached cord.
"Though we integrate coding, computer science and STEAM education throughout our Middle School curriculum, Hour of Code is an important event for our Middle Schoolers because it shines a direct light on and carves out dedicated time for these critical skills that all students can benefit from in Upper School and beyond," Mr. Bell said.
In the Lower School, each JK-4th Grade class are engaging in age-appropriate projects with technology teachers Karen Hurd, Melanie Gregory and Frank Becker and math teachers Tori O’Shea and Frances Coleman. JK students are participating in “unplugged” activities such as having students act as programmers who move their classmate “game pieces” on a floor grid.
Kindergarten-2nd Grade students are working on iPads using an app called Kodable. Third and 4th Grade students are using their Chromebooks to access Code.org, a website that links to challenging activities that increase in difficulty as students progress. Finally, students are using the coding programs Scratch Jr (Kindergarten-2nd Grade) and Scratch (3rd-4th Grade) for additional lessons.
“As a teacher, my first experiences with the Hour of Code hooked me on seeing the importance of teaching young kids to code,” said Mrs. Hurd, who planned the Lower School projects. “And in participating, we are part of a bigger movement, a worldwide effort to help kids get excited about computer science.”