Lower School Celebrates Hour of Code

After eagerly counting down the days on a calendar posted in the hallway, the moment the Lower School had been waiting for finally arrived… Hour of Code! This global initiative encourages schools to participate in a one-hour introductory coding course during Computer Science Education Week and reaches tens of millions of students in countries all over the world. Over 200,000 teachers support Hour of Code, and Chapin faculty are proud to have contributed to this astounding number for the past two years.

To kick off Chapin’s Hour of Code festivities earlier this month, Classes 1 through 3 gathered together in the Lower Level Dining Room.* After words of welcome from Lower School Head Thérèse Cruite, Lower School Technology Integrator Jasslin Betances started the event by leading the students in an “unplugged” coding-inspired activity. “You will be the computers and I will be the code!” she explained. Ms. Betances gave the students various instructions, or code, by holding up signs featuring different symbols. When they saw a knee, they had to tap their knees. And when they saw a hand, they had to clap. The students followed along carefully, responding promptly to each cue. Their teachers had to hold back laughter when Ms. Betances held up a cat sign and the room erupted into a chorus of sweet little meows. The exercise successfully warmed up the students’ brains and was a hands-on way to demonstrate the relationship between computers and code.

The anticipation continued to build as the group watched a short video of their Lower School classmates sharing their thoughts on Hour of Code. “I’m excited to get together with friends and use technology!” one student shared. “We should learn to code so that we know what the computer is saying to us and can tell it what to do,” added another. They also heard from two Chapin seniors about their own coding experiences. “My favorite thing about coding is that it’s highly creative. There’s never just one way of doing things” one student explained. “Coding has taught me to think more logically, which has made me a better problem solver.”  “I have loved computers since I was in Class 2,” added another. “I am proud to be a girl who codes and impacts the STEM community.”

As a final surprise, the students welcomed special guest Grace Tan, a female software engineer at WeWork. “Computer science means understanding how computers work and writing instructions for them,” she explained. “We can build all kinds of fun things with computer science, such as video games (like Pokemon Go), websites (like Google), animated movies (like Coco), and even robots.” Ms. Tan explained that the great thing about computers is that they are fast and will never mess up well-written instructions. Their biggest downside, however, is that they have to be told what to do step-by-step. This is where coding comes in. As a software engineer, Ms. Tan writes code for a living.

To demonstrate the amazing things code can do, the guest brought out an exciting gadget… a musical “piano glove” that converts color into sound! One lucky audience member put on the glove and moved her fingers over a colorful poster, producing a symphony of sound.

“Let’s figure out how this works,” Ms. Tan said. “All of the glove’s instructions are created with code!” She went on to point out the various parts of the glove, including a color sensor, a sound creator and a microchip, and explained that to build the glove she connected all of these different parts together with a soldering pen. Next, she wrote the code. “All things are possible when you have imagination!” she said. “With coding, we can create new things, solve everyday problems, and express ourselves creatively.”  

Energized and excited to try coding for themselves, the students returned to their homerooms where they found iPads sitting on their desks. With the help of Middle and Upper School student volunteers, the girls used these iPads to scan QR codes that opened up into coding games. As they worked through various challenges, like designing a maze and learning about loops in a program, the students encouraged one another and celebrated each victory. “Remember, it’s not a competition,” the teachers explained, urging the girls to help one another when they were stuck.

At the completion of the event, each student was presented with a special certificate of participation, a memento of her Hour of Code experience. Pride and enthusiasm was evident as these “girls who code” returned the iPads to their charging stations and continued on with their days. In the words of one excited student, “I feel so accomplished! I can’t wait to tell my dad!”

*Kindergarten students participated in their own coding activities in their homerooms.

Browse photos from Hour of Code below: