SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Monday, December 9 kicks off Computer Science Education Week 2019. Technology touches almost every aspect of life today and numerous career opportunities exist in computer science related fields. However, there is a lack of qualified professionals to fill the need. Code.org aims to encourage students globally, but especially in the United States, to get interested in computer science. A big push introducing coding into elementary, middle and high schools across the nation began in 2015, but a gap remains with the Garden State having the highest number of job openings in the computer science field in the US. Males also tend to widely outnumber females when it comes to entering the computer science field.
Appleby School Computer teacher Paige Besthoff has been working with her second through fifth grade students to get them excited about the innovative and creative world of computer science in and out of the classroom.
"They (code.org) want to inspire students to study computer science to see if they are interested in computer science, but also to see how technology impacts every part of their lives," Besthoff explained. "It envelopes their entire lives."
Appleby students do coding activities with Besthoff in their weekly computer classes though this week's unplugged Dance Party in their physical education classes was a way to show students a different aspect of coding away from the computer keyboard.
Today's dance-off was an unplugged activity, which teaches students about coding without using computers directly. Plugged activities like those done in Besthoff's classroom utilize laptops or desk tops for coding activities. Nicole Vonfrolio and Claudia Addesso's third grade classes got their hands clapping and their toes tapping in their Monday morning gym class to start Appleby's celebration of Computer Science Education Week. The rest of the third and second grade classes would be joining them tomorrow with the fourth and fifth grade classes to follow on Wednesday and Thursday in their physical education classes.
Besthoff got the dance party started with a brief explanation about events or actions in programming that cause something to happen. The longtime teacher used examples like video games, remote controls and video doorknobs to show students how events in a computer program cause actions to happen. Students were presented with simple dance moves like hand claps, the dab, the star, body rolls and the floss. The moves were choreographed on the overhead projector screen to go along with popular tunes. Fifth grade students Olivia Gandolfo and Giorgi Tvalmikhelashilli helped to demonstrate the dance moves for the energetic and enthusiastic third graders.
Both Gandolfo and Tvalmikhelashilli said they enjoyed doing coding activities in computer class and might be interested in studying computer science in more detail in the future. The pair also had a lot of fun showing their dance moves to Vonfrolio and Addesso's students. Physical education teachers Michael Reid and Mike Zyskowski got involved as well flossing and dabbing along with the third graders.
Besthoff's main goal for computer science education week is for students to see how computer science can be used to assist people. While dance parties and video games are fun, computer programming is needed for devices such as hearing aides and prosthetics that help people.
Earlier this fall Besthoff hosted a family STEAM night for 12 fourth and fifth grade Appleby families. STEAM activities incorporate coding along with math, science, engineering and the arts. Second and third grade families will have their opportunity in the spring.