Programming the Future

2017-01-30

Kids codingWhat does it take to engage a classroom full of Grade 5/6 students for over an hour? Educator Tammy Earley of J.S. Buchanan Public School in Strathroy, Ontario says a coding activity does the trick!

Coding for All Ages

This fall, three Let’s Talk Science Outreach volunteers visited Tammy’s class to do a coding activity with 24 Grade 5-6 students. The school annually participates in a similar activity called the Hour of Code, which is an “introduction to computer science, designed to demystify ‘code’, to show that anyone can learn the basics.” Tammy’s students were enthusiastic about the visit:

“They really appreciated that there wasn’t just one right answer. Others said that it was great that they had an opportunity to do this because it’s an adult’s job and they get to do something an adult does.”

Breaking Stereotypes

Tammy appreciated that the three volunteers were female, demonstrating to the girls in the class that coding and computer science isn’t just for boys. Initially she thought the boys would be more engaged in the activity, but was pleased that the interest was split equally between genders. “It was a great experience for them to see that scientists look different. They usually imagine a male, older, in a lab coat. The great thing about the program is that it’s young people coming out who don’t specifically look like scientists. Just regular people who enjoy science.”

A Valuable Resource

This is the third year that Tammy has invited Let’s Talk Science Outreach to her school. Since J.S. Buchanan is a French Immersion Public School, the majority of staff have arts backgrounds, including Tammy. She sympathizes with other non-science educators who sometimes feel that they’re at a disadvantage teaching science and planning relevant, up-to-date material, making Let’s Talk Science Outreach even more relevant for them. “It’s great that someone would be willing to come all the way to Strathroy, but I’m always happy to have them come out and have an expert and a different voice, to show what a scientist looks like; to them it’s just a regular person,” explains Tammy.

Learning More than Code

Persistence, perseverance, collaboration and confidence were just some of the skills Tammy observed her students acquiring during the coding activity. Tammy explains, “they worked together to use different strategies and perspectives to solve a problem. They persisted when things didn’t work out the first time and gained confidence that they were able to accomplish anything.”

“Some students found through the activity that coding was their passion so they were very happy to do it.”

Many of the Let’s Talk Science Outreach sites offer coding or computational thinking activities, including a workshop using the topic of self-driving cars to teach youth about computational thinking, coding and problem solving. If you know an educator who would like to take advantage of our free Let’s Talk Science Outreach program, ask he/she to connect with a local site coordinator by visiting outreach.letstalkscience.ca.