Kids teaching kids is remarkably effective, especially when the student instructors make it fun.
That’s what happened this month when North Pole high schoolers introduced elementary students at two different schools to coding. They taught computer science 101 in a way that encouraged kids to want to learn more.
The mentoring is part of a program that began in 2013 called “Hour of Code.” It takes place every year during Computer Science Education Week, usually in December, in recognition of the Dec. 9, 1906, birthday of computing pioneer Adm. Grace Murray Hopper.
North Pole High School’s math and computer programming teacher Robyn Atkins remembered back to 2017 when one of her students, Travis Winterton, wanted to dive into the “Hour of Code” project. That year, the high school class partnered with North Pole Elementary School to visit younger students and to introduce coding in a fun way.
“The first year, we worked in three classrooms, and after that, it expanded to doing it as part of our final in December each year,” Atkins said.
This month, the student programmers partnered with North Pole Elementary School and Discovery Peaks Charter School.
“At North Pole Elementary, we visited seven classrooms, a first-second grade split, two second grades, two fourth grades and two fifth grade classrooms,” Atkins said. “At Discovery Peaks we worked with grades 1 to 5. It was great to work at a second school and code with even more students.”
Each grade level had fun options, coding with themes like Flappy Bird, Dance Party, Hello World, Star Wars and Minecraft.
The high schoolers had to do some special preparation themselves before meeting with the new little coders.
“To get ready for these lessons the high school students had to practice all the code, go over lesson planning and have discussions about how to work with younger students, guiding them through problems, helping them see what they might do next and reminding them that making mistakes is part of learning and to experiment with the code,” Atkins said.
She stepped back and watched the high school instructors take over.
“It was wonderful to watch the intensity of the younger coders and listen to the high school students guide them through if-else statements, loops and functions,” Atkins said. “Many of my high school students were students at North Pole Elementary, and four of them were in fifth grade when Travis started the program in 2017. They remember the high school students coming and doing Star Wars Hour of Code.
“Watching learning come full circle is pretty amazing,” she added.
According to “Hour of Code,” every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science.
“It helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity. By starting early, students will have a foundation for success in any 21st century path,” according to Hour of Code, a program supported by more than 400 partners and 200,000 educators worldwide.
By the way, that former NPHS student Travis Winterton who led his fellow students into mentoring young kids coding back in 2017? He is now in his final year as a computer science major at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.