Third-graders learn to code ... with a little help from their friends

Students in teacher Jennifer Kee’s third-grade classroom at Cloverleaf Elementary School have been learning computer programming – with a little help from their friends next door at Cloverleaf High School.
On a recent afternoon, the third-graders were at work on their Chromebooks, dragging and dropping a sequence of commands to enable a character to navigate a maze. High school junior Franklin Vallant and sophomore Richard Laurence moved from student to student to offer assistance, as needed.
“A computer is a tool and coding is how you make the tool work the way you want it to work,” said Vallant.
Coding is what you would use to build a website or an app, added Laurence. 
Kee said the third-graders use Blockly, a kid-friendly computer programming language, to work toward The Hour of Code Challenge.  The Hour of Code is a worldwide initiative by Computer Science Education Week and to introduce students to computer programming. The Hour of Code is officially Dec. 4-10, but can be completed at any time of the year, said Kee. The mission of the non-profit is to provide students with opportunities to learn computer science alongside other school subjects.
Laurence and Vallant have been guiding students through coding games like Flappy Bird and Minecraft, as well as in designing their own Google logos. The third-graders are quick to collaborate among themselves to solve problems.
“The coding process has shown them the importance of communication, problem-solving, logic, sequencing and creativity,” Kee said.
“Some of our students continue to code games when they have free time or are at home.”
The idea to bring high school students in as mentors came out of Cloverleaf’s in-house Teacher Academy, which provides professional development aimed at helping integrate technology into the classroom. Laurence and Vallant were recommended by high school English language arts teacher Joel Shurance. The high-schoolers created the coding courses and monitor the younger students’ progress within the lessons. The mentors receive speech class credit for presenting enrichment activities and working one-on-one with students, as needed.  Richard plans to attend the Medina County Career Center to study information technology forensics. Vallant is looking toward a career in the math field.
“Our third-graders have loved seeing Richard and Franklin in the classroom,” said Kee. “We really appreciate their time and enthusiasm.”
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