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Lillian Larsen students try their hand at programming 

A sixth grader at Lillian Larsen school in San Miguel uses an iPad to participate in the Hour of Code initative.

A sixth grader at Lillian Larsen school in San Miguel uses an iPad to participate in the Hour of Code initative.

Middle school students participate in ‘Hour of Code’

Ninety-eight middle school students at Lillian Larsen School in San Miguel got the opportunity to discover programming during the Hour of Code initiative on Wednesday. Teacher Anne Wilson said that it’s an international movement whose goal is to bring the taste of programming to as many students as possible. Wilson said Hour of Code was held in celebration of Computer Science Education Week.

“The students explored one of three tutorials through Khan Academy,” Lillian Larsen Elementary School Principal Judy Bedell said. ” Lillian Larsen School prides itself on offering middle school class sizes of 15 to 18 students per class, allowing for project-based learning and subject mastery. The school also provides iPads for all fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students.”

The sixth-grade students accessed Khan Academy on their iPads to learn how to use drag-and-drop coding blocks to combine simple geometric shapes to make a picture and the seventh- and seventh-grade students chose between using JavaScript to draw pictures or exploring HTML tags to create a web page.

“I liked how to put the commands [in],” eighth-grader Reggina Jones said. “The tutorial said the computer was basically like a dog — it wouldn’t know what to do unless you told it.”

Nearly all of the eighth-grade honors math students said they were interested in learning more about programming. Wilson said the purpose of the students participating in the Hour of Code was to gauge interest in an afterschool programming group. Additionally, it gave the students hands-on learning experience. She said that part of the Common Core curriculum is use critical thinking and understand the why.

“I liked how challenging it was,” eighth-grader Santiago Hernandez said.

Because of the math and science needed to do the programming and coding, it was held during math class with Wilson, who grew up in a programming home — her father was programmer.

“I’ve been exposed to programming since I was a kid and it really affected my choices,” said Wilson, who worked as an industrial engineer for a software company before getting her teaching credentials.

Several of the students — nearly all female — said they want to do some sort of programming in the future.

“I want to do animation and game designing because I like drawing and making cartoons,” eighth-grader Felecity Hamamoto said.

Eighth-grader Jones said she wants to design educational games for autistic children, “because my brother is autistic.”

For more information on the Hour of Code, go to www.Code.org.

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