4th and 5th grade students are learning to code

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Coding is becoming an important job skill on par with being bilingual. As many as 7 million job openings in 2016 were in positions that required coding skills. And here at Farragut, 4th graders, Isabella Reynolds and Allister Nasr, are the first students out of the 4th and 5th grade to complete Computer Science Fundamentals Coding Course 2 on code.org. Although students only started working on this course in August, Isabella and Alister have now moved on to Course 3.

Coding Course 2 included:

  • Conditionals
    • features of a programming language, which perform different computations or actions depending on whether a programmer-specified boolean condition evaluates to true or false. Apart from the case of branch predication, this is always achieved by selectively altering the control flow based on some condition.
  • Algorithms
    • a self-contained step-by-step set of operations to be performed. Algorithms perform calculation, data processing, and/or automated reasoning tasks.
  • Binary code
    • represents text or computer processor instructions using the binary number system’s two binary digits, 0 and 1. The binary code assigns a bit string to each symbol or instruction. For example, a binary string of eight binary digits (bits) can represent any of 256 possible values and can therefore correspond to a variety of different symbols, letters or instructions.
  • Debugging
    • the process of finding and resolving of defects that prevent correct operation of computer software or a system.

Code.org teaches them basic Javascript. The coursework is set up more like a computer game than like long lines of code. Students are encouraged to draw pictures, navigate puzzles and mazes, and follow shapes like circles and pentagons. It not only teaches coding concepts like algorithms, conditionals, and debugging, but it integrates mathematical concepts like angles and degrees.

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Code.org is a self-paced course, with individual logins so the students can work on their coursework anywhere, including at home. “4th grade does get a bit more time to work on their coursework, because they have science every day which incorporates STEM,” said Shannon LoRusso, the Lower School STEM teacher. “Some students are more interested in finishing the work quickly so they can go play, while others, like Isabella and Alister, really learn to enjoy the work.”

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Even at a young age the students recognize how this could impact their future. “I like coding because I like creating whatever I want with code,” says Alister. “I’d like a job in coding some day.”

All of 4th and 5th grade have begun working on coding to compete in the Dash and Dot competition. Over the next two months, students in teams of up to five will design solutions to real-world science and technology challenges by programming and building extensions for their Dash & Dot robots. They will develop problem solving and creativity skills, learn about issues facing the world around them, and build meaningful relationships with their peers. Top teams will be invited to complete the Final Round in Spring 2017.

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Coding also helps students who want to join the Lego Robotics club, and it prepares them for computer programming classes in 6th grade, and Vex Robotics in 7th grade.

“I don’t necessarily care if they win or lose these competitions,” Mrs. LoRusso says. “I just think it’s important that they learn to work in groups and really get these skills and concepts. It will help them in the future and it won’t be long until the majority of jobs require coding.”