Johnson Elementary School students are learning what has become a necessary and marketable skill through Coding Club.
Gifted and Talented Program teacher Vanessa Brower and Instructional Technology Specialist Melissa Lopez put about 30 students through their paces weekly in the school library.
The curriculum is CS First Google and the students use Scratch and Scratch Jr. The Scratch website says it is “a free programming language and online community where you can create your own interactive stories, games, and animations.”
Scratch Jr. is for younger children to program their own interactive stories and games, the website says.
Brower said the group includes a range of first through fifth-grade students, about 30 percent of which are in the gifted and talented program. She added that it is open to kindergarten students, but none have joined.
The Coding Club has been going on since the end of March and the week of May 6 was their last. It will start again next year. Brower said coding is part of the state’s Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, but it isn’t tested and it’s not a requirement.
“They have games that they’ve mastered that they think that they’re hacking,” Brower said. “The game really the developers have made it so they can manipulate it any way they want. …”
The students play jokes on each other by creating memes.
“They kind of feel like they’re masterminds. They like that kind of thing. … It’s fun for them,” Brower said.
What started it was Hour of Code, a program through code.org.
“… They’ve started probably five or six years ago with their Worldwide Hour of Code. Then that kind of gave them the idea that there were so many kids that they were missing that would normally not get computer skills, so they just marketed it and advertised it,” Brower said.
“You get a free certificate if you do the Hour of Code and that really got kids into the idea that they could become coders. Also, the games that they use and the interface that they use is so appealing to kids that they just get right into it. It’s like watching a cartoon, so it kind of pulls them in but then they’re learning how to manipulate the cartoon, which is really fun for them,” she added.
Gentry Swaim, a 10-year-old fourth grader, said she joined the group because she thought she could meet new people and learn new things.
“I thought it was pretty fun and I enjoyed it a lot,” Swaim said.
Logan Najera, a 9-year-old third-grader agreed.
“… I think it might give me more facts and I could create my own games in the future, too,” Najera said.
Nine-year-old fourth-grader Ripley Dean said he likes computers and Brower had taught him some coding in her class. That was fun, so he thought he’d do it again.
“Probably when I grow older, I’m going to try and be a computer scientist so probably it will help a lot,” Dean said.
Troy Caylor, a 10-year-old fourth-grader, said he wants to learn more about coding in college and create his own game someday.
“It will have a mixture of different kind of games like maybe Minecraft, Fortnite or stuff like that,” Caylor said.