Story and photos by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Pioneer High School junior Anne Ye didn’t know much about teaching when she and two other PHS students signed up to teach the new Rec & Ed Computer Coding class to elementary students.
She just knew she loved coding.
Six weeks later, Anne can report that not only was she impressed with the younger students’ many “ah hah!” moments, but she’s now more confident in her own teaching skills.
“I wish I could have started coding this young!” she said, motioning to the students sitting at computers. “I really enjoy teaching younger kids, and I feel like I’ve gained a lot more experience than I had in the beginning. I started without any knowledge of how to teach, and now I feel I can do it.”
The curriculum was developed by Ted Emch, a computer science teacher at Pioneer, and classes were taught by his students at Eberwhite and Dicken elementary schools for students in grades 3-5.
During the six weeks, students learned computer programming with Scratch. Students learn core concepts such as sequence, selection, and iteration in a meaningful and motivating context.
This is the first time Rec & Ed has partnered with a high school computer science teacher to offer a class. The six-week course has just concluded, but the hope is to offer it again in the fall.
Emch designed the curriculum with both the high school students and elementary students in mind, said Jenna Bacolor, the district’s executive director of Community Education & Recreation.
“The high school students were wonderful, providing lots of support and encouragement to the elementary students in the after-school class,” Bacolor said. “The younger students learned the basics of coding using the program Scratch. They were able to create games and animations based on their own interests with support from the high school students.”
Prairie, a 9-year-old Eberwhite third grader, said that she’s liked everything about computers ever since she received her first computer last year.
“I just like how they work and how they listen to commands and stuff,” she said. “I like how they’re made. It’s really cool.
“I’ve learned how to make things move from side to side and bounce off the screen …”
“And blow things up!” added a classmate.
“Yeah, and blow things up,” Prairie said. “And stuff like that.”
Prairie said she wants to take another coding class.
“I don’t know if another one will be offered, but we’re hoping,” said her mother, Michelle Sauve, “I’ve been really happy with the class because she’s been interested in computers for a while, and we really didn’t have an outlet or way to channel that. So when I heard about this class, I was really happy because she’s skilled at computers, and I want her to use it for good. She was messing around on mine, changing web pages and messing around. I thought, `You’re only eight. How do you know how to do these things? So let’s use it to do things that are maybe more helpful.’ She seems to really love it and I’m kind of sad this is the last class.”
Pioneer senior Emilia Stehouwer said she enjoyed working with the students.
“It’s really cool to see them progress,” she said. “Some of them knew very little, and it was cool to see them be able to do it themselves at the end.
Fellow teacher Rami Souguir, a Pioneer junior, agreed that learning to code at a young age is a great way to learn logical reasoning, and should help students in math and other subjects.
“The kids were active and engaged the whole time,” he said.
Anne disagrees with those who find coding tedious.
“I think it’s really fun,” she said. “At first—until you solve the problem—it’s really hard. But once you solve it, you have that aha moment. It’s amazing. That’s my favorite part of it.”
Zayne, an Eberwhite third grader, said he had only one thing to say about the class.
“One word,” he said. “Epic!”