Learning comes to life during Hour of Code

  • Barnwell High School student Om Patel asks teacher Travis Morehead a question about his coding project.

From kindergartners to high school seniors, local students joined tens of millions of their counterparts from more than 180 countries for an Hour of Code.

The Hour of Code is a program sponsored by Code.org in an effort to encourage coding and computer science in schools around the world. The annual event started four years ago and takes place during Computer Science Education Week, which was Dec. 4-10 this year.

“The Hour of Code started as a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify ‘code’, to show that anybody can learn the basics, and to broaden participation in the field of computer science. It has since become a worldwide effort to celebrate computer science, starting with one-hour coding activities but expanding to all sorts of community efforts,” according to www.hourofcode.com.

At Barnwell Primary School, technology instructor Melissa Moore incorporated a variety of coding projects into her classroom for the week.

“Your future is yours to build,” said Moore of the importance of learning coding and other computer science skills. “If you can learn to program, you can get a good job one day.”

Students selected one of the projects from www.code.org, such as creating their own Google logo. They could also use code in a themed game like Moana, Frozen or MineCraft. All coding activities used the block method where students move blocks with code on the computer. For example, adding a block that says “turn right” will make a character in the Minecraft game turn right.

“Someone had to code it to physically move,” said Moore of how all games require coding to work.

She said her students have been enthusiastic about the activities. Some even talk code to each other. “These kids are hooked,” she said. Her third graders have participated in Hour of Code since they were in kindergarten.

The Hour of Code and computer science related activities complement the school’s one-to-one initiative where each student has access to either a Chromebook or iPad. Moore thanks principal Donna Selvey and assistant principal Kay Gooding for believing in technology.

Students can practice at home on the free website, which is open to anyone to use. Moore said one of her students has gotten to level 14 of the Moana game due to practicing.

At Barnwell High School, Travis Morehead integrated activities that focused on computer science and computational thinking into all of his classes.

His Integrated Business Applications students were introduced to programming at the beginning of the week before doing in-class activities that did not require computers. This included writing a program on paper and another student posing as a robot then built the image using plastic cups. Another day students were introduced to Scratch, a free programming language software that is a “great, easy way for kids to write their first programs and get to see the finished product on the screen,” said Morehead, one of the Career and Technology teachers at the high school.

At the end of the week, students created their own stories and used Scratch to animate it. They selected characters, such as a cat, and added movements, backgrounds and sounds to bring their stories to life.

“I’m trying to figure out how to get the cat to move and add sound. Right now the cat is being difficult,” said student Jackie Sims, who enjoyed the project.

Morehead said students are immersed in technology through their phones and computers, but don’t understand how it works. Activities like Hour of Code are helping change that.

“The idea is that programming is a language. Like Spanish and others, it’s a language you need to learn,” he said.

Regardless of whether the activities spark a love of computer science, Moore and Morehead both said their students are learning and developing important skills, such as problem-solving, while spurring creativity.

“Every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science. It helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity. By starting early, students will have a foundation for success in any 21st-century career path,” states www.hourofcode.com.

The Hour of Code is not limited to one week each year because the free Code.org website allows opportunities for learning throughout the year.