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Students have fun researching computer code

From the lowest to the highest elementary grade levels, children gazed at the figures on the screen, talked with nearby peers and made decisions to continue the game forward.

In recognition of the global “Hour of Code” last week, every class at Haynes Elementary School took time — about an hour — playing games based on writing computer code.

In a game called “Candy Quest,” part of the “Tynker” program website, kindergarten and prekindergarten students learned to maneuver their customized avatars to move forward, jump obstacles and gobble up gumdrops.

Each success led to a new phase of the game. Students shared experiences to help their peers succeed in the game.

“They feel like geniuses,” said kindergarten teacher Crystal Bonner after her young students finished their time in the school computer lab.

She said the tool was a good one to expose her students to a world they have already entered and will only dive into deeper as they grow older. “It’s a technology-based world.”

On Friday, fifth-graders spent their hour of code on a more challenging, but similar game, building code to advance digital characters on their screen.

“Kids are on computers doing social media, learning, playing games, it makes sense they would have a hand in creating content and not just consuming,” said fifth-grade teacher Martay Pagan.

He pointed out to students that they could log onto the website and continue to play at home with parental permission. “Now that they have been exposed to it, they will be getting back on,” the teacher said.

Charlotte Larson, campus technology support specialist at Haynes Elementary School, set up two weeks worth of coding activities because she said the skill supports critical thinking, collaboration and imagination.

“The goal is not to teach a student to become a computer scientist in an hour,” she said. “One hour is enough time to discover that computer science can be fun, creative and accessible.”

A nonprofit organization called Code.org promotes the event annually during Computer Science Education Week in December. Its website claims tens of millions of students take part annually in more than 180 countries and 40 languages.

The emphasis on coding provides opportunity, prekindergarten teacher Brittany Franz said, to talk about computer programming in cars, appliances and other everyday applications.

“While creating games, stories and art with code, they learn to apply programming concepts at a basic level,” Larson said. “Children see that programming is a powerful tool they can use to bring their imagination to life.”

Fifth-grader Daniel Winston said the coding exercise was a good one to show students a possible job opportunity. “Someone might have a job like this, it’s like creating a video game,” he said. “I was having fun. It’s helping me learn to code and coding is fun.”

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