Month of Code celebrated at Apple Valley's Cedar Park Elementary
Sun Thisweek. Patty Dexter. January 04, 2019.

In 2018, over 200,000 Hour of Code events around the world were registered, according to hourofcode.com.

Schools are invited to host Hour of Code events during Computer Science Education Week, which was Dec. 3-9. Cedar Park Elementary STEM School was one of those that chose to host an Hour of Code event a few years ago.

However, the school has taken the celebration of learning how to code to the next level.

For the last four years, the school has conducted a Month of Code. This school year’s Month of Code began Nov. 28 and runs through Jan. 6. During the four-week period, kindergarten through fifth-grade students participate in “interactive, collaborative, computer science and coding activities,” a poster at the school states.

Technology Specialist Mike Staum said the Hour of Code was expanded to the Month of Code because “the kids were eating it up” and there was a lot of interest shown during the first year the school tried Hour of Code.

To prep for the Month of Code, Staum teaches unplugged coding lessons to all kindergarten through fifth-grade students that are based on computational thinking, the fundamentals of computer science. Students use hands-on manipulatives from blocks to tangrams to paper and pencil practice skills in the areas of algorithm creation, pattern recognition, sequencing, abstraction and decomposition.

These concepts are heavy in math critical and logical thinking skills that are connected to the central theme of creative problem solving, Staum said.

“These computational skills are also incorporated and reviewed with our students during our Month of Code through various coding activities such as coding for kids websites such as code.org – with Minecraft and Star Wars-themed coding activities to name a few – Touch Develop, Tynker, etc.,” he said.

“I set up coding portals – Kodable, Hopscotch and Scratch – for all students K-fifth to sign into, to continue learning and keep high interest in coding at school and home. Myself and our engineering teacher also teach coding with a variety of programmable robots, Spheros, Dash, Bee-Bot and MouseBots, and handheld microcomputers called Micro:bits.”

Staum said each grade does age-appropriate coding activities. Kindergartners and first-graders do a lot of symbolic coding. Third-graders delve into block coding while fourth- and fifth-graders work with JavaScript and some HyperText Markup Language.

“Our Month of Code in December is the main ingredient of our year-long coding initiative at Cedar Park with the bookends of November being Unplugged Coding Month – computational thinking activities,” he said.

In the spring Staum teaches Scratch projects to all students that directly connect to and support the school’s grade level units of study. Scratch is a free coding app and online portal from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Staum said.

Staum said some parents who are software engineers or graphic designers came in during the Month of Code time period to show students projects they are working on.

“I want them to have that authentic experience of read coding. This is real stuff that adults do,” he said.

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