Queen Creek Kids Learn Computer-Free Coding Basics

By Mariana Dale
Published: Friday, December 8, 2017 - 5:05am
Updated: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 7:40am
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(Photo by Mariana Dale - KJZZ)
Students used symbols to guide their gingerbread man around obstacles and toward candy and his house.
(Photo by Mariana Dale - KJZZ)
Olivia Glaser, Alyssa Mares and Rhett Regimballe create their coding maps. By helping the gingerbread man get home, they're learning the concept of commands.

The Queen Creek Unified School District is introducing the idea of computer coding to its youngest students.

This week, more than 2,000 students in 90 classrooms took part in Hour Of Code, an international initiative to teach computer science.

At Gateway Polytechnic Academy, kindergartner Olivia Glaser held a gingerbread man colored in pink marker over a game board. Candy treats and a wily fox separated the cookie from his gingerbread home.

After she traced his path, she used a series of symbols, like arrows and happy faces to describe his path.

“The end!” she exclaimed happily.

Glaser had some help from her fourth-grade buddy Alyssa Mares. She sees the similarities between paper pieces and a computer game.

“This you can do it at your own speed,” Mares said.

Kindergarten teacher Sarahbeth Belvado said her students use computers twice a week for about 30 minutes and many use tablets at home.

“We are in a computer era as we move forward; a lot of the jobs are going to be STEM or STEAM related that haven’t even been created yet,” Belvado said, referring to acronyms that stand for science, technology, engineering, art and math.

In addition, this activity, with its cutting and coloring and symbol-drawing, also helps young students practice their fine motor skills. 

“We’re reinforcing every day skills they are going to need from now until the end of their lives,” Belvado said.

The coding lessons are an occasional activity, but the district plans to grow their presence as part of a larger science, technology, engineering and mathematics focus.

Ella Chasten directs educational technology and innovation in the Queen Creek Unified School. She’s responsible for bringing activities like Hour of Code, a national initiative to introduce kids to computer languages into the classroom, even without a computer.

“It’s more the thought process and the thinking of how do you break directions down understanding that a computer doesn’t just do on its own, but it’s actually someone telling it what to do,” Chasten said.

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