November 18, 2017
School & Youth
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  • At Folger McKinsey Elementary, 32 students have signed up for the coding club.
    At Folger McKinsey Elementary, 32 students have signed up for the coding club.
  • At Folger McKinsey Elementary, 32 students have signed up for the coding club.
    At Folger McKinsey Elementary, 32 students have signed up for the coding club.
  • At Folger McKinsey Elementary, 32 students have signed up for the coding club.
    At Folger McKinsey Elementary, 32 students have signed up for the coding club.

Students Learn To Code At Severna Park Schools

Jane Seiss
Jane Seiss's picture
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November 3, 2017

As “digital natives,” today’s young people are more tech savvy than many adults. Building on what they already know about technology, elementary school students in Severna Park are now learning computer programming thanks to an innovative educational program offered through Silver Knights Enrichment (SKE).

For the first time, Coding Club is available as an extracurricular option at Folger McKinsey, Severna Park and Oak Hill elementary schools this semester. In the eight- to 12-week clubs, students use a visual programming language called Scratch to create stories, animations and games. SKE provides a curriculum and instructors throughout the course, as well as laptops and materials. At the conclusion of the club, students are given a USB flash drive with all of their programs saved on it.

“We included it this year because the company offering it has had great success with their other club [chess],” said Education Enrichment Program (EEP) coordinator Beth Gillespie. “There was positive feedback from parents who felt their children would be interested in it.”

Local elementary schools have long provided extracurricular opportunities for students. “The SPES PTA offers its Education Enrichment Program (EEP) as a service to the Severna Park Elementary students and community,” Gillespie explained. “Students can explore a variety of cultural arts through the EEP offerings, ranging from STEM-based to artistic.”

Designed to be educational and fun, the coding clubs do come with a fee, and sometimes scholarships are available. At SPES, Coding Club costs $176 for the session.

At Folger, the club sold out in one afternoon, and the PTO worked with SKE to double its size by adding extra instructors, aides and volunteers. This fall, 32 students from grades two through five are learning to code every Thursday morning before the school bell rings.

“I love ‘Minecraft,’” said Folger McKinsey fourth-grader Cari Davis when asked what piqued her interest in the club. “I really liked how Coding Club sounded, and I wanted to try it out.”

Matthew Zhou, a fifth-grader at Folger, was already learning programming when he signed up for the club. “I want to know how computers work and how to operate one,” he said. He has also taken online courses through Code Academy and, inspired by his older brother who is studying software engineering, has even practiced Java, the widely used programming language.

According to SKE, Scratch is as easy to use as snapping together building blocks. Students follow worksheets and use drag-and-drop functions to build their code. “With Scratch, children learn to think creatively, work collaboratively and reason systematically,” explained SKE cofounder Daniel Weissbarth. “Most of the learning in our programs is project-based, so students learn as they build. Our curriculum teaches new coders the basics while challenging more experienced coders to create a wide variety of more complex programs.”

Scratch is designed and maintained by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab.

SKE is based in Fairfax, Virginia, and is running coding clubs at about 100 schools in Washington D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia. The company was founded with a mission to teach chess at schools. Its chess program has been available in Anne Arundel County since 2011. For more information about SKE, visit www.skenrichment.com.


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