This year our high school planned a coding event so our entire student body could take part in the worldwide 2014 Hour of Code simultaneously. During our Hour of Code event, we successfully had over 500 students use creativity and critical thinking skills to explore Scratch coding blocks and strengthen their logical thinking skills.
We really wanted to engage students and honor their varying levels of coding knowledge so we designed an event that used student leaders, fun themes and innovative grouping strategies to create coding environments. Scratch was the coding language we used for our event because the user interface is very easy to use, and that makes it very accessible. One of the best aspects of the event, was that it allowed students sandbox time to explore coding concepts using Scratch.
Each session environment was assigned a simple theme; holidays, pirates, fairy tales, space or animals to make the session more accessible and engaging to students unfamiliar with coding. Students were polled about what kind of environment they felt they worked best in; quiet collaborative, silent, noisy group problem solvers, and then we grouped them according to their preferences. Interested students volunteered to be trained as leaders. The student leaders prepared and completed sample projects to share with their session groups, some of them selected music appropriate to the theme of their room to play during their sessions, and timelines to help keep students in their sessions on track.
To give the event some structure and focus students were given two options for how they would spend the Hour of Code. Students were invited to create their own theme-based project, or for students who felt they needed more support, we provided a list of themed tasks to try to complete instead of a project. Both options allowed students let their creativity show in the sprites they created, the tasks they programmed these sprites to do and the environment they designed. Students felt comfortable failing and trying to figure out how to make their own coding work as they imagined. The freedom to make whatever they wanted to make allowed students to explore coding at a level they were comfortable with. Since the event was designed as a sandbox time to play, it appealed to students who had never experienced coding or had reservations about programming. The sandbox structure meant students could focus on implementing their own creative ideas into their project rather than trying to get to a specific result.
Author: Brooke Ahrens
Brooke Carey Ahrens is a Google Certified Teacher and Instructional Technology Coordinator at a bay area high school. Brooke is currently serving as a rep Northern California Region rep for the California School Library Association.