Idaho kids focus on programing and computer coding

Thousands of Idaho students are helping Moana steer a boat — a character from the Disney movie “Moana” — and are learning to program animals in Microsoft’s Minecraft.

These activities are part of Computer Science Education Week, when 394 Idaho schools are offering an introduction to computer coding and programming through the nationwide initiative Hour of Code.

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Nearly 400 kindergartners through six graders were equipped with a laptop on Monday at Boise’s Garfield Elementary School. It was the first ever wall-to-wall coding event at the school and the first for the Boise School District.

“Kids need to have access and opportunity to computer science resources to see that they can be successful at a young age,” said Sonia Galaviz, the STEM coordinator at Garfield Elementary. “We want our students to have passion for something that can turn into a career.”

Students are using a Java-based, drag-and-drop experience that makes it so kids don’t need to write individual pieces of code. The idea is to lay out the foundation for eventual text-based computer programming.

Sye Bowler, a second grader at Garfield Elementary, intensely looked at the computer screen. In the corner of his screen is a picture of Moana sailing through an unknown territory across the ocean. As Sye follows Moana’s travels, he learned the basic coding commands that help steer the boat. Along the way, he was introduced to conditionals, sequences and loops (coding terms) while he mastered the art of navigation.

“The game is very scientific,” Sye said. “It can be tricky, but I enjoy learning on the computer.”

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Sye Bowler (right) is showing his classmate how to use his coding skills to dodge the pirates in the “Moana” code program.

Betty Redford, who teaches kindergarten at Garfield Elementary, worked with 20 students on Hour of Code activities Monday. It was the first time that many of her kindergartners used a computer in her classroom.

“It boggles my mind,” Redford said. “Most of the students knew how to navigate the internet.”

More than 60 professionals in the science, technology, engineering and math industry helped Garfield students achieve Hour of Code.

“It’s important to get kids to critical think and problem solve at at young age,” said Scott Sword, a software engineer at TSheets.

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Want to learn to code yourself?

Teachers, students and families can visit code.org to access the free Hour of Code lessons available online.