McLean Elementary in Wichita is one of more than 400 different schools across Kansas hosting Hour of Code events this week as part of Computer Science Education Week.
The purpose of the events is to introduce students to coding. Code.org, a nonprofit that advocates for computer science education, provides online tutorials and games for classes to use.
One such game, called BotLogic.us, has students navigate a purple robot with a green tie through a maze. Students use buttons marked with arrows and thunderbolt icons to write simplified coding instructions to direct the robot.
While third grade may seem young to start students with coding, Katie Hendrickson, the director of State Government Affairs for Code.org, says it’s necessary to introduce students to coding at a young age.
"Once students get to late middle and high school, they’ve already decided if STEM, computing, science, those kind of things, are for them or not," Hendrickson says. "And there are a lot of stereotypes and media representations and portrayals that can influence those decisions."
Code.org ranked Kansas the 45th lowest state when it came to providing AP computer science courses at schools that offered any AP courses. Forty-eight students in the state took one of the exams; only nine were women and two were black or Hispanic. But Hendrickson says that schools in Kansas are starting to recruit more teachers to teach computer science classes.
A classroom with a computer for every student may not fit a school's budget, but Code.org provides "unplugged" lessons that can be used to teach students the basics of coding with cheaper materials, such as paper cups.
"This isn’t about the device and it’s not just about coding," Hendrickson says. "It’s about understanding the underlying logic and really how to think through problems."
Teacher Jamie Schaper agrees. For her, one of the biggest advantage of using coding in lessons is it teaches problem solving.
"Debugging is just a very fancy word for problem solving," Schaper says. "You can apply that to math, reading — any of it."
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