To celebrate the Hour of Code which was held recently during Computer Science Education Week, Riverbank Unified School District (RUSD) treated students from kindergarten through fifth grade at California Avenue Elementary and Mesa Verde Elementary schools to coding activities for the first time. Hour of Code can be hosted year-round.
RUSD Instructional Technology Coach Stacy Bauer partnered with Instructional Coach Penny Bartholomew and four students, Eileen Maloney, Carl Martin, Arturo Ramirez and Xavier Calderon from Riverbank High School to supervise and guide teachers and students alike.
“The hour of code is an international effort to get every kid in the world to do an hour of code in December to write a program for something,” stated Bauer. “So we jumped on board because coding is happening at the junior high and the high school but we haven’t really applied it here (elementary level) yet so this was a good way to introduce it to teachers.”
She added that they also brought some high school students in to assist, primarily to help the teachers in teaching the students, since it was the first time for the elementary teachers to instruct the younger students in the coding exercise.
Coding can be used for many things including English, math and history, Bauer explained and added that there is a validity of computer science in the classroom. One of the activities first graders at Mesa participated in was Santa’s Workshop which is a math based activity that included using directions like north, south, east, west, counting, and creating the code to make him move.
“It is very sophisticated but they are first graders and you can see they are just going at it,” added Bauer. “So they are using it with a little Santa right now but as they get more advanced then we bring the robots in and they do the coding and it makes the robot do whatever. It is so cool.”
With technology taking over the world, RUSD does not want their students to get left behind and this was one step to bring something new to the youngsters at the elementary level as well as the teachers. They applied for a grant that they are waiting on to be able to offer coding to kids in the afterschool program.
All the sites within RUSD participated in the Hour of Coding including Cardozo Middle School and Riverbank High School students and teachers. Although some teachers have done coding prior to the participation in December, Assistant Superintendent Christine Facella thought that introducing it to all elementary students and participating in the Hour of Code throughout the district would be beneficial to all students and teachers.
There are coding programs for kids in pre-k on up to adults. The program is free and available to anyone that would like to engage in it at code.org.
“It is so fun,” explained Bauer. “The best thing, too, that it is really important is to let the kids grapple with it because so often students aren’t having to grapple with things and this really builds that growth mindset where they are like “oh I messed up but I am going to try again.” We want them to do that with math and spelling and everything like they do with video games.”
Students within RUSD have created code to manage robots and students at the high school are building full video games. The way technology is increasingly being used in education, Bauer said that kids are no longer going to be learning how to use computers but using computers to do the things they want it to do like science experiments.
Bauer taught English for 20 years and spent some time as the Drama teacher at Riverbank High School and now has transitioned to being the instructional technology coach assisting teachers with blended learning, bringing different opportunities into the classroom.
“There is nothing I love more than working with teachers and helping them develop curriculum,” expressed Bauer. “I cover the full district for technology. I brought the high school kids, she (Bartholomew) brought us in and then together we were able to do it. I would not have been able to do it without her. Her expertise and my expertise really worked well together.”