CASSTOWN — With Chromebooks on their laps, more than 45 Miami East Elementary School students were working diligently well after school was dismissed for the day in the popular after-school program called Code Club.
Miami East Elementary fourth-grade teacher Matt Roth said the Code Club was born three years ago after discussions with other teachers about 21st century learning and the growing demand for computer sciences. The club meets once a week. Students work on coding applications and also learn how to program robots as part of their after-school activities.
Fourth graders Bianca Stevens, Preston Duff and Emily Zawalich joined the Code Club to learn how to code. It’s their first year in the club.
In the month of December, Code.org held an event called “An Hour of Code” to get schools and students around the nation to code for one hour. The Miami East Elementary Code Club held their own “Hour of Code” on Dec. 13, prior to winter break.
“I’ve never done it before so that’s why I signed up to do it. I’ve enjoyed learning how to make the characters move,” she said.
With certain code blocks, Zawalich can manipulate characters on the screen to perform tasks the code tells them to do.
During their session Dec. 13, students were challenged to create their own interactive holiday card using the coding programs.
“I just thought Code Club sounded really fun. I love computer games, so this was something I wanted to do,” Steven said.
Stevens and Zawalich were coding a ‘Moana’-themed program during the “Hour of Code.”
“You have to code to make the characters do what you want them to do,” Stevens said.
Technology isn’t without its inherited frustrations, which some of the Code Club members were swift to point out.
“It feels really good when you get the codes right. It’s pretty frustrating when you get stuck,” Duff said. “You just try and keep going and try different things.”
“Sometimes when it’s not working, I have to stop for a minute and then figure it out,” Stevens said.
Duff said he’s used Code.org programs at home, too.
“It’s fun to do it after school with other people, too,” Duff said.
Roth researched different coding programs for the third, fourth and fifth graders. Roth uses curriculum through Code.org and Scratch to introduce the world of coding to students in a fun and interactive way.
“In 2015, there were 530,000 open computer science jobs, but only 60,000 people available to fill them. So, we are trying to introduce these kids to the idea of computer science,” Roth said. “This is starting to become something that is a career and a lot of jobs you are going to need to know a little coding here and there. It was basically started to get them interested in that.”
Roth, a teacher for more than 18 years, said he did some coding in junior high and high school.
“Even if they don’t go into computer science, it gives them a lot of problem solving skills and creative outlets,” Roth said.
Roth explained how first year students learn coding, second year students graduate to more advance coding and third year students apply the code and use block and script coding programs. After school resumes, the Code Club will begin to program robots using Kindles.
“The kids look forward to that,” Roth said. “They program the robots to do certain tasks. They have a lot of fun with it.”
The first year of the club more than 70 students signed up.
The Code Club have received support from the Miami County Foundation, the Miami East Elementary PTO and the Miami East Education Foundation.
Follow Melanie Yingst on Twitter @Troydailynews