EATON — At Hollingsworth East Elementary, Eaton students are taking steps toward a more successful future.
Led by Erica Hamilton and her kindergarten class, several children participated in the Computer Science Education Weeks’s Hour of Code program on Friday, Dec. 11. It is an initiative to bring computer programming — a now essential tool in today’s workforce — into a school’s curriculum.
“In 10 to 12 years when these kids graduate and enter the workforce, it’s either going to be you know how to code and can understand it or you’re not going to be successful or competitive in the workforce,” said Hamilton. “Think of code as almost the new literacy program for students.”
The Hour of Code was a week long challenge to schools across the United States and throughout the world. In countries such as China, a computer science course is required for a student to graduate, but in America, 90 percent of schools don’t offer such a class.
The challenge, while it was initiated to get students of all ages learning basic algorithms and computer programming, is also an opportunity to break down the stigma of coding itself.
“Everyone thinks computer science is rocket science,” said Hamilton. “It’s really pretty basic. If you start it at the early level, it’s more understanding algorithms and what it means to program and what it means to code. Then kids understand that what they do and what they operate makes the computer work. That’s something that is going to benefit them in the future. If we start them at a foundational level, they are able to build upon that so when they get into middle school and high school, they’re creating their own software and their own games – basically using a lot of creativity.”
And that’s exactly what her classroom did. They used basic coding programs that have been catered to young children – such as Kodable, Tynker, and ScratchJR – that teaches them forward thinking and a basic understanding of algorithms.
In these apps, there is a “fuzz ball” and students must choose what directions the object has to travel to get to the end of the maze. The game becomes more challenging and difficult the further a student progresses.
The students responded well to these games as they stayed active and engaged for the entire one hour they were coding.
“My favorite part about coding is that you add the arrows and you press the mark and you get to see (the fuzz ball) go,” said Sawyer Keating, a student in Hamilton’s kindergarten class. “It’s awesome!”
The curriculum is the first of its kind in the county, and Hamilton was sent to a workshop in Dayton to help (hopefully) further computer science education in the district.
“We need to start putting the district on the map and getting the students exposed to this. If we don’t start at the early level, when they get into middle school and high school and don’t have a basic understanding on how to code and program, and they start having to read algorithms that make no sense to them, they are going to be lost and behind,” said Hamilton.
It’s a basic strategy used by everyone – from musicians using sheet music to artist to even using the coffee maker in the morning – it’s just following steps to get a machine to do something.
“Coding is actually more applicable than we think,” she said.