SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - After Ethan Sauer spent his science class Friday learning about computer coding, the sixth-grader declared that coding “should be an Olympic sport.”
“It’s fun. It’s easy. It’s not that complicated to pick up,’’ said Sauer, 12, a student at Holy Savior Academy. “All you need is the devotion to learn it.”
Sauer was among Holy Savior students –- in fourth- through eighth-grade --- who participated in Computer Science Education Week’s “Hour of Code,” a national effort to get children interested in coding.
During the week of Dec. 9, sixth- to eighth-graders in Jen Durkin’s science class and fourth- and fifth-graders in Daneile Micale’s social studies class took part in Hour of Code, using the school’s laptop and tablets.
The students logged onto the website, csedweek.org, which is free to use, and then picked a game to code. They had the option to use a game they were familiar with, such as Angry Birds, or built their own game. If the student chose Angry Birds, for example, he could code the bird’s each step to tell the bird to move left, right, or forward to get to the pig.
Durkin usually teaches about Earth sciences in her class but decided to use last week to introduce computer science to her students.
“So much of what we do is based on computers, yet many of us don’t know how they work,” said Durkin, adding that she wanted to demystify computer coding for her students.
“It’s a puzzle,” said Durkin. “They still like to solve a puzzle. It’s something that feels like it’s supposed to be hard and yet they did it.”
Durkin said computer coding teaches students to be critical thinkers and use basic logic.
That was the part Allison Mont, 10, a fifth-grader in Micale’s class, liked about coding.
“I liked that I was thinking really hard when I was playing,” she said.
Her classmate, Kaitlyn Adlassnig, 10, added: “I was learning in a fun way. You didn’t realize you were learning.”
Alex Figura, 11, a fifth-grader in Micale’s class, said after his Hour of Code Wednesday, he discussed the lesson with his family at the dinner table that night. After dinner, he showed his dad, Bill, who works in the computer science field, the website and they coded together.
As the students become more savvy in their coding, they can advance on to more challenging programs on the website.
That way, students like Thomas Knapp, 13, an eighth-grader who has been coding longer than his peers, can continue improving.
“It’s a good skill to learn,” said Knapp. “I’d like to go into computer science when I grow up; maybe go to MIT.”
Holy Savior Academy, located at 149 South Plainfield Ave. in South Plainfield, accepts students of all faiths in pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade.