Coding: Never too early to learn

Commonwealth Charter Academy introduces coding activities for K-12 students

12/08/2017

As students around the globe participate in a tech movement known as, Hour of Code, an initiative to promote technology education during Computer Science Education Week (December 4-10), Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA) is demonstrating that coding can be taught even as early as kindergarten.

“Coding games are self-directed, provide immediate feedback, and require critical thinking skills,” said Janae Cardel, an instructional coach with CCA. “They are a great way for young students to start developing their skills, especially in our online environment.”

CCA, a statewide public cyber charter school, is no stranger to technology. Students in all grades are provided laptops to attend school virtually. Beyond that, CCA also offers students access to state-of-the-art 3D printers and software to create objects they design, STEM workshops and field trips, a computer science curriculum, and coding activities for all ages.

“Technology is part of the everyday modern world that we live in, so why wouldn’t we introduce it to our students early to help them better prepare for their future?” said Sara Van Ostenbridge, an elementary teacher at CCA. “Not everyone goes on to four-year colleges, so this is something we can expose our kids to now as a way to bring elements of a higher education to them sooner.” 

Van Ostenbridge is just one of the teachers at CCA introducing coding and relative coursework to students in grades K-5. She makes coding fun and understandable for her students by inviting them to workshops and introducing them to coding tools such as STEM Code and Go Robot Mouse (pictured). The robotic mouse is equipped with several buttons to determine its distance and direction, and the user needs to map out how to program the mouse to navigate obstacles and reach its target: a piece of cheese. 

“With trial and error, they figure out, ‘What did I do wrong? What steps do I need to take out, what steps do I need to put in?’ and they are using all of these critical thinking skills to get from point A to point B,” Van Ostenbridge says of the program. “It’s great. It’s like a game for them, and it is one more way to make learning fun.”

CCA students in grades K-5 are provided the option to complete 30 hours of code.org training as an elective. Code.org is a nonprofit offering students of all skill levels access to online computer science curricula. Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Wolf, recently joined Code.org's bipartisan Governors’ Partnership, as part of Pennsylvania’s effort to enhance K-12 computer science education.

“I’ve noticed over the past couple of years that coding opens doors for certain students who haven’t found their strength in school yet, and then they find coding, and they get this confidence,” said Van Ostenbridge. “Excelling at one thing brings their confidence through to other areas.”

CCA has been participating in Computer Science Education Week and the Hour of Code, by using educational robotic devices. Teachers are also reaching out to students to recommend additional learning opportunities outside of code.org and promoting the importance of computer science this week.

“Even if they don’t become computer coders, they’ll have these critical thinking and problem-solving skills that they can apply to anything,” said Van Ostenbridge. “These are skills that I think all students are going to need.”

Posted in News Release
Tagged with cca, commonwealth charter academy, STEM, student success