There are nearly 150,000 places worldwide registered for the 2017 Hour of Code. Four of them are from the Windsor Central School District: Bell Elementary, Palmer Elementary, Weeks Elementary and Windsor Central Middle schools.
Windsor students in pre-k through 8th grades spent the first week in December programming. Younger students used simpler programs on code.org or the Kodable app while older students worked on more advanced coding.
“There are basic drag-and-drop puzzle pieces. As they progress the coding level builds. As they work through mazes the challenge level increases,” said Rhonda Ashley, Curriculum Instruction/AIS Service Provider at AF Palmer Elementary.
“I think that coding is fun in a lot of ways. When the levels go up it gets harder but when you do it, it’s fun. You get excited as you go higher,” said 5th grader Braelynn Salt.
Students also learn that coding means making a lot of mistakes.
“The students use sequential steps, loops, conditional commands. They debug. If something doesn’t work they have to find where the bug is,” said School Media Library Specialist Nana Pietriyk.
“That takes high-level problem solving. Some students will write it out on paper. Others stand up and walk through the commands as if they were the character,” said Ashley.
But working through the mistakes is part of the value of learning to code.
“They’re not afraid to attempt to make a mistake. They come here and they learn that failure is the first attempt at learning. Coding is taking a risk,” said Ashley.
While the Hour of Code week from December 4-10 is meant to inspire people around the world to code, programming is an activity students in Windsor take part in year-round.
“We start with concepts of programming before they go on to the computer. We focus on sequence, algorithms and teamwork before they go on computers. We call it unplugged coding,” said Pietriyk.
“We’ve been coding all year. It’s part of the curriculum,” said Middle School librarian Teresa Brandt.
Pre-k through 2nd-grade students will take part in simple coding, using robots or programs that allow students to code using arrows. Students in grades 3-5 use the aforementioned sequential steps, block coding and loops. 6th graders are learning how to build websites using the coding language HTML. 7th graders are using HTML as well while 8th graders are exploring with robots. Students have also used the MIT-based programming language Scratch to create video games.
Oftentimes, the progress students make coding is related to their willingness to make mistakes and keep on learning.
“It takes a little time but you can master it,” said 5th grader Gabriel Soundararaj.
“It’s very challenging but when you take the time to do it it’s a very rewarding experience,” said 5th grader Lizzie Hopkins.