LIVINGSTON, NJ — After nearly two months of remote learning due to the global health crisis, members of the Livingston High School (LHS) Coding Club began hosting free coding classes that attracted more than 20 participants in each of the nine weekly classes.

The club’s five board members—rising juniors Aryan Bansal (president), Dylan Benzi (vice president) and Franklin Yiu (public relations manager) and rising sophomores Anusha Bansal (treasurer) and Nidhi Gosalia (secretary)—taught the classes along with club advisor Kristi Malone, a computer science teacher at LHS.

“We wanted to provide all students in the community an opportunity to spend the extra time they might have had in quarantine to learn something new,” said Aryan. “We hoped to use these classes to encourage critical thinking, problem solving and a desire to learn and build. We also figured that with the prevalence of technology in the modern world, it would be beneficial for students of all ages to learn a little computer programming, which is why we offered the classes for free.”

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For several weeks, the board worked tirelessly to create lesson plans for classes that focused on programming languages such as Java, Python, HTML and CSS. According to Aryan, the participating students, who were all Livingston Public Schools students in grades four through 12, were “actively engaged throughout the sessions.”

“Since we were teaching coding, we did not encounter many difficulties, as our lessons were designed to incorporate current technology with the pandemic in mind,” he said. “However, we had to find different ways to allow students to view code that we write, which required us to use different methods than how one would traditionally process programs.

“We also had to learn how to effectively get the content to students in different age groups and had to tweak our lessons based on the students' age. Because this is the first time the Coding Club has offered classes to students in Livingston and had over 100 students sign up for classes, it was difficult trying to teach topics that require students to think outside the box such as variables and functions—essential programming topics that school math teachers would generally cover. These abstract topics would be much easier to cover in person since younger, less-advanced students who never encountered these topics before have a harder time grasping these ideas.”

Despite the challenges of teaching virtually, the club members received plenty of positive feedback.

One anonymous testimonial from a participating student expressed that the coding classes were “extraordinary” and the instructors were “so professional” that it was easy to forget that they were “just high school students with a lot of knowledge.”

Another student said the classes “were engaging and very fun” and that the languages taught each week were “very exciting and pushed [students] to work hard in the area of coding.”

Although there are no classes scheduled for the summer, Aryan said the club is looking to continue classes in the fall either virtually or in person. Details are forthcoming and will be shared when they become available.

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