On December 4, students at Chapin and around the globe honed their computer science skills during Hour of Code, a yearly event that encourages schools to participate in a one-hour introductory coding course. The Lower School kicked off Chapin’s third annual coding celebration by gathering in the Lower Level Dining Room for a special presentation.
To begin, the students were asked to raise their hands if they like playing games on a computer or tablet. Every hand in the room quickly shot up. “Well, if you learn coding, you could actually design your own game one day!” Lower School Technology Integrator Jasslin Betances excitedly explained. But, she added, coding isn’t just fun and games. “You can also code things that can really help people.”
To explain this further, Ms. Betances invited a special guest, software engineer Grace Tan, to the front of the room.
“Code is like a key. It can open doors to new possibilities,” Ms. Tan began. “I like coding because it’s something I can do to affect people in many ways. I look at what’s happening in my friends’ and families’ lives and create simple tools to help make it better.”
As the visitor shared a short video of a day-in-the-life of a computer scientist, the students couldn’t help but notice a small table covered by a sheet sitting next to the screen. Much to their excitement, Ms. Tan soon removed the sheet to reveal her “Self-Care Bear,” a small computer chip she had built that was housed inside a cardboard bear. She created the bear as a tool for her brother to use to cheer himself up when he was feeling lonely or sad.
Ms. Tan pressed a small button and the bear came to life. “Hi, Chapin Girls!” it said to the group, before playing a happy, upbeat tune. The students giggled with excitement.
“How many Self-Care Bears have you made?” one girl asked. The crowd gasped in wonder as Ms. Tan replied, “Actually, this is the only one in the world!”
“It was relatively simple to make,” she added. The students watched as Ms. Tan shared a time-lapse video she took as she created the bear, from collecting supplies and building parts using wires and soldering irons, to writing the code that brought it to life. After seeing this first-hand example of the amazing things coding can do, they were eager to try it for themselves.
Kindergarten through Class 2 thanked Ms. Tan and quickly returned to their homerooms to complete exciting, age-appropriate Hour of Code activities using iPads.
In Kindergarten, the girls worked together, inputting directional commands to guide a cute little fuzzy ball through a maze of twists and turns. “This level is hard!” one student exclaimed. “Well, what do good coders do?” her teacher replied. “They try again.”
Class 1 and 2 students used QR readers to scan barcodes, opening up special Angry Birds coding games. “Remember to have a growth mindset,” a teacher reminded one pair as the levels increased in difficulty. The classrooms buzzed with energy as students clapped and celebrated when they got it right.
While the students worked, Ms. Tan stopped by to answer questions and offer a closer look at the workings of her Self-Care Bear – even opening the bear to display the mini computer chip inside.
Class 3 students remained in the Lower Level following the presentation and worked through a de-bugging activity with Class 8 “buddies.” These Upper School students were there to offer guidance and support to their younger peers, while completing more advanced coding games on their laptops.
The Class 3 students truly relished the opportunity to spend time with and learn from these talented Upper Schoolers, who had enjoyed their own Hour of Code celebration earlier that morning, organized by Head of Upper School Academic Technology Vivienne Forrester. During it, they explored the lives and work of various female computer science pioneers, discussed ethics in computing and digital citizenship, and completed mathematical binary activities.
As the Lower School celebration came to an end, each student was presented with a certificate of achievement, a memento of her Hour of Code experience. This morning of discovery surely inspired this group of young computer scientists to continue to explore all they can create through the magic of code.
Browse photos from Hour of Code below: