MOUNT PLEASANT, N.Y. — Learning a new language, Westlake Middle School took part in the global “Hour of Code” that encourages people of every age to learn the language of coding.
The week-long initiative, held this year from Dec. 7-11, was created in 2013 by the nonprofit code.org to expand participation in computer science. Last year the middle school joined the movement by having all sixth-, seventh-nd eighth-graders learn coding basics.
This yea,r library media specialist Mary Knopp also arranged Skype sessions with computer programmers so the students could get a better understanding of the real-world applications of coding.
“We have the programmers tell the students how they got into coding, what their jobs are and the rest of the time the students are asking fantastic questions,” said Knopp, who made a point of getting female programmers to speak with the students. She wanted all the kids to see that programming is “not just a guy thing.”
After speaking with the programmers, students hit the computers lab and went “under the hood” of video games such as “Frozen” and “Angry Birds” to learn how the characters moved across the game field. They learned how code commands created the animation and were able to create their own movements using those commands.
“We’re playing games, but coding, actually,” said seventh-grader Angelica Alvarez, who was scripting her acorn and squirrel to go through a maze. “I’ve never done it before, but it’s good to keep your mind open.”
Angelica said that Skyping with programmer Kristin Patterson helped her realize that this field is not just for men. “It’s very open,” she said.
Technology education teacher Ely Perry used the Hour of Code as a jumping off point with his students. They spent the entire week using coding software to continue their learning and it was the perfect segue into their next unit: video game design. For more information, click here .