Creekside dives into coding

Published 9:05 pm Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Creekside Elementary School engaged in a unique program recently that broke down the complexities of coding.

“I think it’s a good beginning,” said Jennifer Rascoe, library media specialist at Creekside.

Madelyn Kresinske, elementary age services supervisor for the Suffolk Library and a former Creekside librarian, connected with Rascoe and school administration to bring forth the initiative.

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“This is something that is new, because we are so SOL-driven,” Rascoe said.

All of last week, Creekside students in kindergarten through fifth grade participated in the “Week of Code” program. It was held during the students’ library resource classes.

For each session, Kresinske led a brief discussion about coding. She helped apply coding concepts to real-life situations.

For conditional programming concepts, she explained it is similar to parents telling their children they can do something, only if something else is accomplished. A prime example would be a child being able to play outside, only after his or her homework is complete.

Kresinske said this helped facilitate the students’ comprehension of the programming concepts.

After the introduction, students were then separated into groups of three and played programming games through the website,

The process of the students working together is referred to as pair programming. This is what professional computer programmers often do when they collaborate to write and program code.
Kresinske said it gives students the opportunity to learn from one another and to develop communication skills.

The program teaches students coding concepts and computational thinking using interactive games.

One student acts as the “driver,” by controlling the mouse and the other students act as “navigators,” by offering suggestions.

Rascoe said the students enjoyed the program.

“They were just amazed,” she said. “They love to do fun stuff. It was definitely a success — they were always asking for more.”

Rascoe said some students have even worked on the programs at home.

She added the program has encouraged her “to find ways to be more creative” with her lesson plans.

Kresinske has noticed several city schools don’t devote a great focus on the computer science field. This disparity has carried over into the workplace.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections, 71 percent of all new jobs in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields are in computing. However, only 8 percent of graduates in these fields majored in computer science.

In Virginia, there are currently more than 36,000 open computing jobs but there were just over 1,400 computer graduates in 2014, according to The Conference Board, National Center of Education Statistics and The College Board.

Kresinske said this was a motivator for the library getting behind the initiative.

“STEAM and STEM programs are a big thing in the library scene,” she said.

Kresinske said she would continue the program at the Mack Benn Jr. and Oakland elementary schools and Suffolk Christian Academy.

“Our goal is to provide coding programs to all Suffolk schools,” she said.