Students Participate in International Coding Event

December 5, 2018

By Juliann Guerra '19

Learning to code was all fun and games on Tuesday, December 4, as 18 Saint Anselm students spent the morning mentoring 27 fourth graders.

“Activities like the Hour of Code help nurture problem-solving skills, logic, and creativity. By starting early, we want the students to get interested in this creative process of computing,” says computer science professor Rajesh Prasad. “The computer science department is always looking to find new ways to engage and boost students’ interest in computer science. We want elementary school students not to fear computer science and get them interested in this field by building their confidence.”

The field trip for 14 students from St. Francis of Assisi School in Litchfield, N.H., and 13 from Saint Benedict Academy in Manchester, N.H., was part of the annual Hour of Code, an international event designed to give elementary school students hands-on experience with coding. The college students mentoring them were from Professor Carol Traynor’s Discrete Math course.

The group provided the younger students with prepared tutorials, and helped them practice coding through computer games like Minecraft and Dance Party. Computer science major Charles Elliott ’21 explained that the maze in Minecraft was giving the players tools to move forward and turn right. “They’re just introductory commands to programming so it’s really easy and fun,” says Elliot.

Neither of Elliot’s students had done coding before, he says. “So it was a great experience getting to interact and teach them both, while at the same time having fun doing those activities.”

Professor Traynor, Computer Science department chair and associate professor, explains, “Hour of Code is a worldwide event that is held during Computer Science education week. It’s always at this time of year and literally there are hundreds of millions of people all around the world participating and doing this event in over 180 countries. I think it’s one of the biggest events of this kind to be staged.”

Saint Anselm College’s participation in the Hour of Code has also become an annual event. Traynor says that her students enjoy working with the fourth graders and the feeling seems to be mutual.

“Last year [the students] said this was their favorite field trip for the whole year; they like working with the college kids,” says Ann Jones, fourth grade teacher from St. Francis of Assisi. “I would say it’s definitely a worth-while program. And we have limited resources at our school so this gives them the chance to learn some extra coding things. Right now we’re just doing keyboarding so this promotes and gets them excited about the next level.”

Melissa Piet, the teacher from St. Benedict Academy, believes that fourth grade is a perfect time for students to have this opportunity “because they’re not afraid to try something new and figure it out. As adults we wouldn’t be as willing to explore as they are and this is how it all starts.”

Jones agrees, saying, “These are the years where they just have fun. They learn and it’s just fun for them; they don’t worry about whether they’re doing it right or wrong.”

One of the fourth graders from St. Francis was excited to tell everyone back home about the field trip and what she'd learned. “I had so much fun coding with Mike,” she exclaimed.