BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Students in Grades 6 through 8 recently celebrated the Hour of Code at Columbia Middle School. The Hour of Code - a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in more than 180 countries – is an hour-long event which provides an introduction to computer science and is designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics.

"They are doing the fundamentals of coding -- writing the language and learning the language," said Mike Skara, District Technology Coordinator. 

"We are trying to prepare our students for future jobs -- teaching 21st century skills. There are so many coding jobs open in America -- we are trying to give our students a leg-up on how to do this," he added. 

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More than 60 middle school students participated in this year’s event at CMS. Led by Mrs. Christina Froehlich, Mrs. Kimberly Tota, and Mr. Michael Riley of the Columbia Middle School faculty, students were encouraged to work at their own pace and learn by doing in a relaxed atmosphere. In addition to the Columbia students, several volunteers from throughout the school district as well as parents and friends from the local tech community took part in the Hour of Code.

The goal of the event was to plant the seed to spark interest in coding. "It was about giving them the idea that if you have a little coding in your back pocket and a little bit of imagination, you can do anything you want," said Andrew Froehlic, event volunteer who works as a coder for [a subsidiary of Amazon]. "There's a wealth of fun silly things you can do -- once you get excited about that, these young minds start thinking about what else can I do -- this is what makes great coders later on in life." 

The tools are online and free and there are a lot of avenues for the students to continue coding, said Principal Frank Geiger. If a student has a passion, they can continue coding through the school's science club, TWIST [Teen Women Interested in Science and Technology] and the new Robotics Club at the school.

The entire district participated in Hour of Code through their computer classes.  At the high school level, the computer science classes were challenged to engage one other person to an Hour of Code and teach them during lunch, GL also had a speaker provide information regarding college readiness for technology start-ups.