Last year, Maury students participated in the Hour of Code which aims to show that anyone can learn the basics of coding and encourage broader participation in the field of computer science. But why limit the coding experience to once a year and only for an hour (or a 45-minute Think Tank special)? Under the leadership of Principal Carolyne Albert-Garvey, the vision of Think Tank teacher Amanda Mentzer, and the grant-writing prowess of Granetta Coleman, Maury has received a $25,000 Roberts Award to put in place an expanded coding program for the 2016-2017 school year (and beyond!).
With this grant, Maury will implement the robust Tynker coding curriculum for students in Grades 1-5. The Tynker curriculum is a games-based learning platform organized into grade-specific courses. The lessons are “scaffolded” so students can learn concepts at their own pace and apply them creatively. The curriculum provides an engaging and fun way to learn coding and integrates assessment tools for easier tracking for teachers (and parents). Using mini-iPads acquired with the grant funding, students can work independently or in pairs.
Kid-friendly robots are another exciting tool for hands-on, play-based, coding activities. For the PK and Kindergarten students, the Cubetto robot will be used. Cubetto is a Montessori-approved wooden non-computerized device that teaches younger children the basics of sequencing using blocks, a foundational skills for programming. Students in Grades 1-5 will use the Dot and Dash robots where they can use the accompanying apps on their table to program the robot to do cool things like play a xylophone or kick a ball!
Besides the in-classroom curriculum, Maury will partner with Great Adventure Lab to launch an after-school Coding Club for Grades 3-5. An experienced computer professional will come to Maury and teach Scratch coding, a free programming language for creating interactive stories, games, and animations.
Building community is one of the core values at Maury. “With the implementation of this coding curriculum,” says Ms. Mentzer, “students at all grade levels will have a shared experience.” Through the Maury Coding Club, the initial cohort of students can teach younger student buddies, a natural extension of Maury’s Buddy Classrooms program.
The expanded coding program will be rolled out gradually as materials are received. The after-school coding club will start mid-November and students will try out coding in small ways until Winter Break, with the full curriculum expected to start early next year. Watch this space for more updates, or follow Think Tank on Twitter @maurythinktank.