While children are very familiar with modern technology, they often use it without understanding how it functions. During Computer Science Education Week from Dec. 6-12, students in the North Bellmore School District got a look at the inner-workings of computer software.
Students in fourth and fifth grades took part in activities through the international Hour of Code initiative under the direction of technology teachers Michael Bevilacqua, Alexa Laskowitz and Cathy Schlaich. Ms. Schlaich explained that the goal was to give children an introduction to coding with a user-friendly program, Google CS First.
Fourth graders animated text. Students could write their names, favorite sport or a place they enjoy, then give each letter an effect using drag-and-drop coding. Since every letter was its own sprite – a standalone computer graphic – they had to create code for each one. Students had fun making letters change colors, bounce, dance, spin and do other effects while learning the extensive work involved in computer programming. Each effect required anywhere from two to five lines of code, depending on complexity.
In fifth grade, students programmed two sprites to have a dialogue and learned how to move the graphics on the screen using the coordinate plane.
“It’s valuable to them as they're going to need these coding skills going forward,” Ms. Schlaich said. “It’s something that they're going to be using in middle school, high school, college and maybe even in careers.”
Ms. Schlaich also noted that one component of North Bellmore’s computer science program is robotics, which requires coding. Students have to program their robots to perform specific movements, so they will go into those activities with some familiarity because of their participation in Hour of Code.