River Ridge students immerse into computer coding

Error message

  • Warning: array_merge(): Argument #1 is not an array in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 133 of /home/pdccourier/public_html/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to get property of non-object in _simpleads_adgroup_settings() (line 343 of /home/pdccourier/public_html/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Warning: array_merge(): Argument #1 is not an array in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 157 of /home/pdccourier/public_html/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).

Sue Kuenster, River Ridge’s technology integrator/computer lab assistant, works through one step of the Grinch Hour of Code game with third grader Colton Crubel. (Photos by Correne Martin)

Third grade students Zoey Neeley and Kynzlie Mullins discuss the correct answer in figuring out the coding game they played.

Above is one example of how blocks can be dragged and dropped together to write computer programming commands, or code.

By Correne Martin

Computers run on their own language called code. 

As the world evolves, writing and understanding that code becomes more foundational for the masses of jobs out there—some that may not even exist yet. 

According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer-science-related jobs available and only 400,000 graduates with the skills to apply for those jobs. This, as River Ridge Schools’ Technology Integrator Sue Kuenster said, means a majority of employees are coming from other countries to fulfill these needs. 

“We want our youth to show interest in code,” she stated. 

Thus, Hour of Code was developed as a free movement by the National Center for Education Statistics (Code.org) and Computer Science Education Week to reach tens of millions of students and teachers in over 180 countries through a one-hour introduction to computer science and computer programming. 

“It’s for ages 4 to 104!” Kuenster quipped.

The non-profit Code.org offers lots of games that teach the algorithm necessary to make code commands. The first and third grade River Ridge students in her computer lab learned that algorithm is “a set of steps to complete a task.”

“For example, if Mrs. Breuer says, ‘Here’s your worksheet’ and tells you how to do it, that’s a set of steps,” she told the first grade.

Then, Kuenster showed them, on the whiteboard, how a computer would fill alternating spaces with black color on a chart:


“To save on time, we can write using symbols. Now we’ve taken these symbols and made a code,” she pointed out. “You can use these codes on a computer to give a command for a program.”

There are two types of code, or two primary programming languages: text based and visual blocks. The elementary students utilized both to play an interactive Grinch Hour of Code game at Code.org, in the computer lab, Dec. 3. Individually, their mission was to capture all the presents to deliver back to Whoville. To make that happen on screen, they each needed to program a drone to pick up some presents in a grid. With each additional level, there were more presents and also some road blocks, which required thinking outside the box to maneuver the drone to the presents. 

Each activity at Code.org, like the Grinch game, takes about an hour. Kuenster encouraged the children and their parents to challenge themselves on the website. 

“They want more kids, especially girls, to show interest in code,” she said. 

The seventh graders at River Ridge also focused on coding all week, in Tina Dilley’s computer science class. Their curriculum was provided by the free website, Scratch (scratch.mit.edu), developed by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Activities included introduction and discovery, animation, motion, sound and size, to name a few. 

Working on an “Intro to Art” starter project Dec. 6, the middle schoolers worked their way through seven different projects. The first, for example, included making Mona Lisa move, change colors, say something and/or do other cool actions. The students then selected their favorite project, which was assigned a QR code (a smartphone readable code consisting of an array of black and white squares that represent a link to computer information). Each QR code was  attached to a snowflake and placed on Mrs. Dilley’s classroom door for sharing around the school. 

“These students had Mrs. Kuenster last year and she’s the one who started doing coding with them,” Dilley stated. 

She noted that most of her students have grasped coding concepts rather quickly and said she’s happy River Ridge has supported a deeper focus on the subject. In fact, she and Kuenster attended a School Leaders Advancing Technology Education (SLATE) Conference Dec. 3-5, in Wisconsin Dells. This opportunity allowed them access to products and services necessary to strengthen computer science within the school community. 

“My mind is still blown from all that was thrown at us,” Dilley said. “I’ve decided I’m going to choose just three things and implement them because there’s no way I could do them all.”

Later this school year, Dilley will also offer a high school computer applications elective course that will feature building a robot and programming it. 

“There’s a computer brick on the robot and they have to build a program that can make their robot follow a maze on the floor,” she said. “It’s cool because they have to figure out things like wheel rotations and the degree it’s moving.”

She expects the class to be wildly popular. 

Certainly, these practices are only scratching the surface of the technology and computer science education today’s students have the potential to learn.

Rate this article: 
Average: 4 (2 votes)