Program teaches students computer coding

Photo by Mike Sakal

Westview Elementary School fourth-grader Steven Reisinger is learning more about computer coding during Computer Science Education Week.

AVON LAKE - Westview Elementary fourth-grader Steven Reisinger already has two years of computer technology learning experience.

The 10-year-old is mapping a strategy on his computer on how a "hero" he created for a story can save the king from an evil goblin.

What Steven and the other students are doing on their classroom laptops during Computer Science Education Week and the Hour of the Code is no surprise to their teachers. Cathy Brady and Kristen Morris, who are intervention specialists for gifted students in Avon Lake City Schools, are seeing the children’s progress firsthand.

Students in kindergarten through fourth grade at Avon Lake’s four elementary schools are learning advanced computer skills.

Computer Science Education Week featuring Hour of the Code is an annual program dedicated to inspiring students in grades K-12 to take an interest in computer science. It is held in recognition of the birth of computing pioneer Adm. Grace Murray Hopper on Dec. 9, 1906. The program is supported by 350 partners and 100,000 educators worldwide.

"It really is amazing to see what they already know in computer science and technology — and they really know a lot," Brady said. "Their creativity and imaginations are amazing.”

Students learn advanced computer skills such as computer programming in mapping out a story or creating a game, he said. They can even design how a character moves. They also are learning perseverance in finding and fixing problems in coding before they can move on in a program.

Steven Reisinger spoke about the program as he worked on Code Hero, an educational video game to help teach players how to write programming languages in a 3D world.

"As I'm growing up, I'm learning more about programs and screens," he said. "At first, I really liked to play video games. Now, I like to put together a story. The site (Code Hero) is amazing. You can do a lot with it. You can even make a piece of toast talk to a wall."

Gifted fourth-graders who came to Redwood Elementary on Thursday learned how to code or implement commands into their Ozobots or Spheros, small robots about the size of a baseball. The school received about 15 of them for the teachers’ Innovation Hour program through a grant from the Avon Lake City Schools Foundation. The Spheros or Ozobots can light up or talk through codes the students program into them through the Bluetooth app on their cell phones.

Fourth-grader Melina Lee put together a moon mission and programmed her Sphero to say, "One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind," echoing the iconic quote of astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon.

Melina said of the Innovation Hour and Computer Science Education Week, "I think it's good because it helps me improve my coding skills. I would like to create a game."

While National Computer Science Education Week ended Sunday, Avon Lake's elementary school students will focus on computer technology this week before winter break. In January they will share their computer projects with classmates, Brady said.

"It's a great opportunity for the students," Brady said.

Contact this reporter at msakal@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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