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Marymount School Students Code Their Way to Computer Proficiency

Marymount kindergartners received recognition for their coding efforts. Click to view larger
Marymount kindergartners received recognition for their coding efforts. (Alessandra McCoy / Marymount School photo)

Kids get excited about feeling a part of something big. At Marymount School of Santa Barbara this week, kids got to be a part of something really  big when they took part in an Hour of Code, a highly coordinated worldwide effort taking place Dec 7-13 to increase computer science awareness, skills and proficiency in schools.

This week Marymount students spent an hour of coding and received official recognition from the Hour of Code organization for their efforts. With the exception of the special recognition, this was not entirely out of the ordinary for Marymount students.

Marymount has classes and electives such as advanced programming, Girls Who Code, robotics and LEGO Engineers that teach students as young as kindergarten and even junior kindergarten important computer science skills.

Computer science skills are also woven into other subjects and areas of learning helping Marymount students develop computer skills and fluency from a young age.

This week, Marymount kindergartners warmed up for their Hour of Code with what is called an “unplugged” activity in which they moved their physical bodies by following directions such as, “Turn 180 degrees; step two steps back; turn in a complete circle in place; turn north; turn south,” to gain a deeper understanding of how their bodies’ ability to move came from messages from their brains.

Students were then asked to apply this same logic to coding. Moments later, kindergartners were coding and practicing writing Java script by giving movement directions to birds reminiscent of the birds in the game Angry Birds on their screens.

One kindergarten girl, Naomi, seemed to be far along in the exercise. When asked what she was doing she replied, “I have moved to the next stage. Now I’m learning about debugging. When you get to the next stage, a kid talks to you. She’s telling me if I make a mistake I need to keep trying, but try something else.”

Dr. Dana Susko, Marymount’s library and media specialist, inspired the Marymount community to join with other students around the world in the Hour of Code. Students understood the sheer size and scope of the effort by watching a YouTube video that shows the numbers of students participating in dozens of countries around the world and across the United States.

Marymount’s participation involved different grades doing different levels of coding. Marymount’s fourth graders were so absorbed in their coding, they could barely answer questions.

Fourth grade student, Liam, was kind enough to clue us in on what he was doing, “We are doing a game where you have to code to get the character from Star Wars, BB8, to the metal scraps.”

His classmate, Layla, seated at a computer a few seats away said, “… We follow a list of commands to get to your goals while coding. It looks pretty difficult, but it becomes really easy once you get things in their proper spots.”

“Marymount students loved being a part of The Hour of Coding,” said Andrew Wooden, Head of School, “They enjoyed the challenge and problem solving and then the results they were able to achieve when they kept at it.”

— Molly Seguel is the director of admission for Marymount School of Santa Barbara.


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