SPARTA, NJ-Twenty-two fifth grade students took a field trip from Helen Morgan Elementary School to Sparta High School on Wednesday, Feb 12. Their teacher Karin Rennie arranged with Margaret Incantalupo to have the students visit the high school. Incantalupo is a math teacher instructing classes in Visual Basics, AP Computer Science using Java and AP Statistics.
In December students throughout the district participated in a national initiative program called "Hour of Code," exposing the students to the basics of writing computer code. After that program three of Rennie's students expressed a strong interest in doing more.
Rennie, together with Technology Coordinators Melissa Postorino and Patrick Chodkiewicz, arranged for the younger students be able to learn code from Incantalupo and her students. Code writing is also called programming. Coding is usually done using a programming language such as Java or C++ to create a sequence of instructions to solve a problem or perform a task. The students also had the opportunity to learn about the internal components of computers.
Explaining the impact of learning how to code, Incantalupo says, "I tell my students and I truly believe that knowing how to code gives students a superpower with which they can make important contributions in the world."
The younger students arrived wide-eyed and entered the large computer filled classroom with nervous excitement. Incantalupo's students quickly jumped in to help Rennie's students get comfortable and get started. They include Ryan Bloomgren, Claire Incantalupo, Dylan May, Thiago Santos and Ryan Smetana.
The project chosen for their session together was to create code for a Magic Eight-Ball application, based on the familiar prognosticating toy. All of the fifth grade students were able to successfully design, code and run their applications.
High school student Clair Incantalupo said, "They were so cute, so excited and it was amazing that in such a short time and no coding experience, all of them created and programmed working Magic 8 Ball applications."
Margaret Incantalupo shared, "They were such attentive and enthusiastic learners turned programmers. We would love to have them come back anytime. We have loads of computer science skills, resources and projects that we can share with them and I think that having the high school students really gets both the older and younger students engaged in the coding process."
Fifth grade teacher Rennie said she " was inspired." She shared some of the comments made by her students as they traveled back to Helen Morgan:
"No offense, but I loved it more than Science."
"It was cool to learn how to make the program work."
"I can't believe I got to do something like that."
She even overheard one student say to himself during class time that it was the best experience he ever had in school.
All of the teachers involved hoped that this would be the start of a program to have the two groups of students become Coding Buddies throughout rest of the year.
The fifth grade students that participated in this field trip are Jonathan Bollard, Kathaleen Brockmann, , Kayla Collinson, Ryan Curry, Nikki Dawar, Kiran Duggirala, Michael Foley, Nicholas Furnari, Alex Fontes, Alexandra Gerb, Robert Hartranft, Andy Kadar, William Klein, Andrew Krops, Rebecca Nigro, WIlliam Schwing, Aidan Sheridan, Kyle Sutton, Thomas Trela, Aliya Wolfe-Nye.