Edgerton Elementary receives $10,000 for coding for kids

A $10,000 check from Hour of Code was received during a school assembly Dec. 8 at Edgerton Elementary School by Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Brenda Cassellius, Edgerton student council lead Marisa Knoss, Maplewood Mayor Nora Slawik and State Sen. Chuck Wiger.
A $10,000 check from Hour of Code was received during a school assembly Dec. 8 at Edgerton Elementary School by Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Brenda Cassellius, Edgerton student council lead Marisa Knoss, Maplewood Mayor Nora Slawik and State Sen. Chuck Wiger. (submitted photo)
Edgerton Elementary students listened intently to a Dec. 8 assembly introducing the Hour of Code initiative.
Edgerton Elementary students listened intently to a Dec. 8 assembly introducing the Hour of Code initiative. (Linda E. Andersen/Review)

The students at Edgerton Elementary School in Maplewood could soon be developing the next hit mobile application, cutting-edge smartphone or even a new kitchen appliance.

The 487 kindergarten to sixth-grade students at the District 623 school are just a fraction of the nearly 100 million kids across the globe who participated this year in the “Hour of Code” program, an initiative to introduce computer coding to students at a younger age. In addition to participating in the computer science program, Edgerton was also chosen as the only school in the state to receive $10,000 to invest in technology hardware.

Principal Melissa Sonnek brought the idea with her from the Stillwater School District when she took the reins at Edgerton this year.

“I knew that Hour of Code was out there, and it was a perfect storm,” she explained. “Edgerton has been leading the way in technology before I even got here.”

Citing the school’s use of a TV production studio for video announcements as well as having 1:2 iPad-to-student classroom sets for grades 1-6, Sonnek said participating in the Hour of Code was a great idea for fostering Edgerton’s interest in technology.

“I thought Edgerton was right for something like [Hour of Code].”

‘What’s your superpower?’

Throughout last week, teachers in every classroom taught a lesson on computer coding, ranging from how to tell an “Angry Bird” from the popular app where to move on the screen or programming snowflake designs with Elsa and Anna from the movie “Frozen.”

The Hour of Code provided website-based lesson plans, which Sonnek said were very user-friendly so teachers, who may not be familiar with the subject matter themselves, could easily learn the content before leading a classroom through it.

“It really walks students through it step by step,” she said. “They explain it in a way that really makes sense.”

Sonnek said she enjoyed talking to kids about what they’re learning during the lessons and the challenges they faced while coding.

“Part of the power that comes from coding isn’t necessarily the product, but that it teaches you how to problem solve and collaborate,” she explained.

The theme for the week was “We code, what’s your superpower?” Some teachers dressed up in superhero costumes to teach the lessons, Sonnek said. “It’s been fun.”

Closing an opportunity gap

Hour of Code estimates that by 2020, just a year before current sixth-graders will graduate from high school, there will be 1.4 million computing jobs in the U.S., but only 400,000 students studying computer science. The program’s goal is to introduce kids to computer science earlier in life, to see if they have an aptitude for it or are interested in pursuing it further.

“I think kids don’t understand power of code,” Sonnek said. “At the assembly [Dec. 8], we mentioned a microwave, video games, cell phones; (they) all use code. This is preparing students for the future. It takes away the myth that [coding is] complicated or hard. It shows you at an earlier age this might be for you.”

Additionally, Sonnek said only 12 percent of those earning computer science degrees in college are women, and an even smaller percentage are minorities. Seventy percent of the children attending Edgerton, which is in the Roseville Area School District, are students of color. Sonnek said Hour of Code provides an opportunity to encourage all students, gender or race aside, to consider a future in computer science.

Enhancing computer science offerings

Sonnek says the school plans to use the $10,000 to purchase another 1:2 ratio classroom set of iPads for use at the Kindergarten level.

“There are some things we’d like to do after we get more iPads,” she added.

As far as including more computer science curriculum in the future, Sonnek says she doesn’t want to wait another year until the 2015 Hour of Code.

“This is a school and community that values 21st century citizenship and 21st century learning,” she said. “I don’t want to wait until next year to continue learning how to code. There’s a lot of coding curriculum out there, and I hope to tap into this as we continue to move forward.”

For more information about the Hour of Code, visit www.code.org.

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.

 

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