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Westfield Elementary Students Crack the Code

Westfield second grade elementary students at Franklin School, Catherine Heflin and Paul Heintz, try their hand at computer coding during Computer Science Education Week.  The entire school participated in an "Hour of Code" to encourage logical thinking skills. Credits: Westfield Public Schools
Groups of fourth and fifth grade students at Wilson Elementary School in Westfield voluntarily spent an hour after school in December to learn computer coding.  Actively engaged in the project are (pictured in forefront, l-r): James Calcagno, Sally Crandall and Emily Duncan.  The program was sponsored in conjunction with the Parent Teacher Council's GT Parent Committee. Credits: Westfield Public Schools
Tamaques Elementary School's gym was transformed into an after-school computer lab on December 12 where students learned basic programming concepts and experienced computational thinking, creativity and problem solving skills.  Credits: Westfield Public Schools

Franklin, Tamaques and Wilson Elementary Schools in Westfield joined a massive campaign kicked off during Computer Science Education Week in December to encourage students to participate in the Hour of Code. launched the celebration which is geared to promote interest in the field of technology and help nurture creativity and problem solving skills.  The parent committee of the district’s Gifted Program brought the activity to the attention of the schools and provided assistance in bringing the opportunity to all students.

Hour of Code workshops took place in either school libraries or gyms both during and after school to enable students to complete their hour of basic training by writing a computer program. The students were meant to create - and not just consume - software technology.

At Wilson School, fourth and fifth grade students learned to write code, and while doing so, produced an animated greeting card for the holidays. The lesson was adapted from the Massachusetts of Technology, according to Wilson parent Amisha Mehta and teacher Trista Nwokey.  Originally planned as a one-hour, after school activity for the first 25 students who signed up, Wilson Principal Joseph Malanga explained that a second session was offered due to increased student interest.  One of many enthusiastic students in the first session, fifth grader, Emily Duncan, stated, “I think that it was a really good experience to go and to try coding and to try to assemble a greeting card. I think everyone should learn how to do it.  It’s a good thing and a fun thing to do.” 

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 Equally impressed with the coding lesson was Franklin second grader Paul Heintz, who remarked, “I loved the Hour of Code because I’m actually learning while having fun.  If I get to be a master coder, I would like to make my own website or a game, like skiing”! 

“In the world in which they are going to live, they will need a basic understanding of computer code,” explained Franklin Principal Eileen Cambria.  “Maybe one of them will write an app that will contribute to helping others,” she added. Franklin fifth grade teacher Betsy Freeman and media specialist Rachel Kennedy helped coordinate the Hour of Code in which all students in the school used code to solve a puzzle containing popular animated characters.  Students were also challenged to think of a code they wished they could create to make the world a little bit better. That “wish list” is displayed in the school’s hallway.

To continue the momentum, Franklin School will launch an after-school “Code Club” for fifth graders in January that aims to further demystify computer science and show students that coding is fun, collaborative, and creative.

Close to 50 fourth and fifth grade students were eager to spend their after school time learning to code at Tamaques School during Computer Science Education Week. The program was organized by parent Barbara Maguire and principal Michael Cullen, who facilitated the actual Hour of Code with the assistance of teachers Josh Miller and Courtney Farruggia.  “Computer programmers are in high demand, and a shortage of qualified candidates for programming positions is expected just as our students will be entering the work force,” stated Cullen.  Any time that students spend learning about how computers work is time well spent, and it is our hope that the Hour of Code will spark their interest to learn more about the field,” he added.

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