During the week of May 8th, a team from Eleven Fifty Academy and Tech Point for Youth joined Michigan City Schools for Cool Coding week. The week was full of learning for students, teachers, and administrators. By far the most rewarding outcome was in providing students and teachers the tools and resources for an educational journey in coding.
On of our instructors, Kenn, taught an introduction to Coding class in Michigan city in which the mayor’s wife joined to learn about coding.
Introducing Elementary Students to Coding
Monday and Tuesday were spent introducing elementary school children to coding, coding concepts, and languages. Using the ABC++book and tools such as Hour of Code, and Scratch, we were able to get students excited about coding. We taught students of every age at Lake Hills, Springfield, Joy, March, Knapp, Pine, Coolspring, and Edgewood.
On Monday afternoon, a member of our team was invited to speak to an assembly of nearly 90 fifth and sixth graders about coding and careers in coding. When asked what the students know about coders, the responses were vague and included only gaming and hacking. The students enjoyed “How to Make a Coder” drawings provided by our employer network. By the end of the week, students were referring to coders as ninjas (a reference to a drawing the students were shown).
Instructors utilized not only online resources, but physical examples of coding like instructing a computer to make an actual peanut butter and jelly sandwich using bread, peanut butter, and jelly. Thinking and excitement really took off when we started using an exercise called Draw Toast using only pictures to visualize concepts and processes.
We were invited to provide a 45-minute news program on the student CNN network where nearly a dozen classes learned about what coders do using Blockly type programming to make things happen in their favorite games like Minecraft and Star Wars. We are pretty sure the kids were excited about coding and us coders that brought the resources and lessons to them because we were asked for our autographs.
Opening Up Possibilities with Code
The power that comes with knowing what opportunities are out there and that it is within reach no matter the circumstances is invaluable. Students eyes were opened to a world of possibilities.
It was no different at the middle schools. Seventh and eighth graders built a videogame as our instructors walked through an interactive lesson. In addition to the lesson, students got exposure to learn about the Raspberry Pi.
Thursday night, the staff of Eleven Fifty joined Lake Hills for a Family Computing Night. Students revealed to their parents what they were working on and the different resources that are available to them to continue their coding journey and to learn a necessary skill for their future careers.
Coding And STEM Education
At the end of the week, half of our staff taught at the high school. The entire staff ended the day at the STEM school in Michigan Cityto help students build their own video games. Lake Hills is an amazingly unique school. While more than 90% of the school is free and reduced lunches are provided, the students seek to learn and find ways to advance their coding knowledge. A group of 14 students created a Coding Club on their own. This group of students set up a small luncheon for the Eleven Fifty staff where the students were able to learn about our current and past projects.
The students are using tools like Makey Makey, Ozobots, Raspberry Pis, and robots to interact with code. We learned that there is a gap in student opportunity between elementary school and high school. The district is currently trying to find ways to bridge the learning gap for the students and sustain their interest in coding.
Michigan City and the Future of Coding
At the conclusion of the week, we joined Kevin McGuire, Director of Technology, and Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins, Superintendent of Michigan City Schools, to recap the week and learn what Michigan City plans to do to further coding opportunities. A CoderDojo will open this summer to give students access to Chromebooks and Raspberry Pi units. The local library is providing curriculum based tools to help assist teaching in the learning and teaching process. We received hugs from student as a thank you for helping them learn and find ways to continue learning. I was also approached by the Greater La Porte Economic Development Corporation to help bring coding education and excitement to their community.
There is so much interest in providing resources and teaching code to students. We found that teachers are timid and, if provided with the correct resources and guidance, they can get past being afraid of coding and make additions to their curriculum to help prepare students for the future.
Are you looking for ways to help bridge the growing technology skills gap? Contact Eleven Fifty to learn how you can help!