County stu­dents to par­tic­i­pate in ‘Hour of Code’

Cecil Whig - - & - By JES­SICA IANNETTA

jian­netta@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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

CE­CIL COUNTY

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.

PHOTO COURTESY OF APRIL AL­CORN

Cherry Hill Mid­dle School stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in “Hour of Code” last year.

PHOTO COURTESY OF APRIL AL­CORN

Cherry Hill Mid­dle School stu­dents use Code.org tu­to­ri­als dur­ing “Hour of Code” last year.

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