County students to participate in ‘Hour of Code’
— When Cherry Hill Middle School students participated in “Hour of Code” for the first time last year, they had one major issue with the program.
“The biggest complaint was that they wanted more time,” said April Alcorn, the school’s computer science teacher.
So this year, Cherry Hill is expanding its program and is one of many places in the county that is participating in “Hour of Code” this year. Both Cecil County Public Schools and Cecil County Public Libraries are holding a variety of events in conjunction with the national event, which encourages schools across the country to spend an hour teaching their students about coding during Computer Science Education Week, which this year runs Monday to Sunday.
The initiative was started four years ago by Code.org, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science and increasing representation by women and underrepresented minority students. The goal of the event is to introduce students to computer science as well as to help them learn the basics of coding. Event participants can use Code.org tutorials with themes such as “Star Wars,” “Frozen,” Angry Birds and Minecraft, or create their own curriculum.
At Cherry Hill, this year’s “Hour of Code” program will include a talk from Chris Healy, manufactured systems engineering manager at Terumo Medical Corp., who will speak to a select group of students about binary code on Thursday, Alcorn said.
“He’ll really try to help the kids make this applicable to real life,” she said.
All Cherry Hill middle schoolers will participate in an hour of code using the
Code.org tutorials as part of their math class on Friday and receive a certificate at the end. Alcorn is also working with Business and Education Partnership Advisory Council (BEPAC) in hopes of having computer science professionals in all the classrooms while the students are coding.
While all sixth graders are exposed to coding as part of the computer science curriculum, “Hour of Code” is a good chance to expose all grades to coding as well as reinforce that coding and computer science is relevant to a wide variety of areas, Alcorn said.
County libraries are also planning a variety of events related to “Hour of Code,” with many of the programs filling up fast, said Rachel Wright, CCPL’s children’s services librarian.
Like Alcorn, Wright noted that learning to code has many benefits people aren’t always aware of.
“People associate it right away with teaching a computer to do something,” she said. “But there are so many other skills involved.”
Those skills include critical thinking, problem solving and logic, she added. CCPL also tries to include group work in many of its programs, which means collaboration and teamwork is involved too.
All those skills can ap- ply to almost any career and, because coding is accessible to a variety of age groups, students can start learning these skills at any age, Wright said. As part of “Hour of Code,” CCPL will hold four types of programs: “Digital Animation,” “Scrib- bler Robots,” “Programming 101” and “Star Wars Galaxy.”
The Scribbler robots allow kids to use basic coding to direct the robot to draw a design while the Star Wars Galaxy class uses Code. org tutorials to teach kids how to create their own Star Wars-themed game. The digital animation classes, meanwhile, will teach kids to make their own animations and games using “Scratch,” a free programming platform, Wright said.
“There’s so many different ways that coding can be used,” Wright said.
Cherry Hill Middle School students participate in “Hour of Code” last year.
Cherry Hill Middle School students use Code.org tutorials during “Hour of Code” last year.