Potlatch Students Get ‘Hour of Code’ | North West
POTLATCH – Students at Potlatch Elementary School learned to code on Friday with guidance from 10 software engineers at Schweitzer Engineering Labs.
The event, organized as part of an awareness program at Schweitzer, was part of a global initiative called âHour of Codeâ designed to introduce children to computers with hour-long coding activities.
John Cassleman, K-12 outreach manager at Schweitzer, says the need for computer programmers is only growing.
âIt’s like math or English,â Cassleman said. âWe start these at a young age because they are essential to the way we operate in society – and likewise, coding will continue to be vital. There are so many careers that coding fuels, whether it’s software engineering, cybersecurity or web development.
Friday’s event was the first time that Schweitzer facilitated coding activities for an entire school. Engineers rotated with 230 students in grades one through six in hopes of exposing them to different career opportunities associated with IT.
Potlatch Elementary School principal Jill Diamond said the lessons provide an opportunity for students to learn more about a topic that may seem abstract at first, but that helps develop problem-solving skills with wide applications.
âSchweitzer offered so many resources to make this transparent and successful,â said Diamond. âProblem solving in itself is a useful skill because it elevates the idea of ââguessing and checking into something more systematic. “
The students opened their laptops and put on headphones to participate in the activities. One of the games, called “Dance Party”, offered a series of actions to be programmed more complex than the others.
âThere’s a workspace where they grab these different blocks that tell the game what to do, and then they see how that translates into action on the screen,â said Shawn Jordan, chief software engineer at Schweitzer. âIt starts with one action and builds from there. “
Kaylea Brown, a fourth grader at the school, said the games were unlike anything she was used to.
âI’ve never played coding games before,â Kaylea said. “It was cool learning how to move the characters.”
Coding activities are designed to evoke problem-solving skills, according to Cassleman. Children may experience frustrations, but they are encouraged to face it.
âStudents internalize their own abilities a lot from a young age,â he said. âHaving this belief that they can code will ideally persist throughout their educational experiences. This is one of the reasons why I think it is so important to teach it early.
Computing is more than being online or on a device, he said. It is a framework for thinking and breaking down problems to find a solution.
Kaylea said the time spent with the engineers has passed because she is having so much fun.
âI started putting in stuff that I thought would work and then I pushed the game up,â she said. “If it didn’t work, I’d look where it left off and put the stuff to make it work there.”
Schweitzer software engineer Bryce Hart walked around the classroom to answer questions and make sure no one was struggling.
Hart told the students that video games were what first interested him in computers. After the activities, he encouraged them to play coding games at home in their free time.
âThe kids have been very interested so far,â he said. “We played the game ‘Dragon Blast’ in our group and some of the kids got to the last level and beat it all.”
When asked if they had any questions, several students asked when the engineers would come back and resume classes.