SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Students at the Spotswood School District's Appleby School got physical with this year's annual Hour of Code on Dec. 8 and 9. Hour of Code began as a one-hour introduction to the field of computer science, showing kids the basics in creating computer code. However, it has grown by leaps and bounds and now reaches millions of students in more than 180 countries.
Hour of Code is celebrated yearly during Computer Science Education Week, which this year took place during the week of Dec. 5. the date is always chosen to coincide with the birthday of computer science architect Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. Hopper, whose birthday is Dec. 9, was one of the original programmers on the Harvard Mark I back in 1944.
Hour of Code boasts some big name partners in the computer science industry including Microsoft and Apple. Boys and Girls Club of America, Amazon and the College Board are among other supporters for the program that taps students into one of the largest growing professional fields. For Appleby's fourth and fifth grade students, this year's Hour of Code has a slightly different twist with students combining computer programming with physical education. During their gym glasses, kids divided into relay teams after a refresher course on coding to do some human programming. Each team member was responsible for first checking the previous entries for errors before adding the next element of the program, which was introduced beforehand.
The fourth and fifth grade students had completed the paper portion of Hour of Code as well as viewed videos from Code.org before moving into this next, more challenging element. Paige Besthoff teaches computers at Appleby and begins working with students as early as second grade.
"This is a part of computer science education week, "Besthoff explained as Lisa David's fifth graders and Susanne Schmidt's fourth graders worked together in programming teams. "There are approximately a half a billion students around the world participating in Hour of Code."
Code.org is the brainchild of Hadi Partovi. Partovi is a former employee of Mircrosoft who created Code.org, which is a non-profit organization that is designed to open up the world of computer science to youngsters around the globe.
"They (Code.org) provides all the schools around the world with the programs. All of the students from Appleby, Memorial and the high school have used the programs from Code.org," Besthoff continued.
David's and Schmidt's students had previously completed Hour of Code lessons where they created paper programs as well as watched videos on computer programming. However, their December 8 Hour of Code required a whole other level of thinking and cooperation.
"They came in today and we reviewed how to go it," Besthoff said. "And now they are doing human programming. They are learning to work collaboratively with a group to see how Disney, Pixar and companies that create movies and games work piece by piece; everybody puts in one part of the program."
Kids also learned what happens when someone makes an error in the programming. A mistake required a rewrite before the team could move on. Students spent 45 minutes in the gym on the human programming portion and will then finish off the Hour of Code in computer class where they can choose from activities that put their human programming into action. Activities range from a Minecraft game to programs incorporating Disney's "Frozen" or "Moana." This is the second year Hour of Code has been at Appleby though it has been an annual event in the high school for the last five.
Spotswood High School computer science students past and present were scheduled to be on hand for the December 9 Hour of Code activities, assisting Appleby students from second through fifth grade. Seven students are currently in the high school while two graduates studying computer science in college were returning for the event. All nine of the volunteers were also counselors at the district's popular STEAM summer camp that took place for the first time in August and introduced campers to math, science, engineering and computer related endeavors.
When the human programming relay came to an end, Besthoff gathered the two classes of students together for a review and some student feedback on the activity. Interestingly, many of the students thought that it was more difficult to have to work collaboratively with each other than individually since each person had to 'debunk' the existing program before moving on. Others also expressed feeling a bit more pressure to perform correctly in the race atmosphere.
Both in the gym and the classroom, Appleby students were getting hands-on experience in the field of computer science, which remains one of the hottest growing professions as technology continues to expand into all aspects of life.
For more information on Hour of Code, visit Code.org.