High-tech toy teaches students how to code

By on April 18, 2018
Second grader Trevor Michaels shows board members Desiree Wagner (left) and Kevin Eshleman and Superintendent Ella Musser how he programs music using Osmo and the Coding Jam app. Photo by Kim Marselas

Second grader Trevor Michaels shows board members Desiree Wagner (left) and Kevin Eshleman and Superintendent Ella Musser how he programs music using Osmo and the Coding Jam app. Photo by Kim Marselas

Cocalico school board members spent the first few minutes of their April meeting playing with a high-tech toy.

On April 16, Reamstown Elementary School principal Beth Haldeman and second-grade teacher Jennifer Schwambach presented the board with a lesson on Osmo, a gaming system that includes math, reading, coding, art and music applications.

Students Bryce Goshert, Addison Zimmerman, Trevor Michaels and Luke McGowen showed the board members how they create musical masterpiece with physical coding blocks. By ordering the blocks in specific patterns, the students sent messages to the app which then plays a video and music through an iPad.

“This teaches them basic coding like running loops, sequencing and setting conditions,” Schwambach explained. “And they get to do it in a kind of fun, free-play app.”

The school has class sets of Osmo for each second grade section. Students are able to choose from a variety of coding, math or puzzle games when they explore centers set up around their classroom.

The latest app, Coding Jam, was paid for by a grant from the Cocalico Education Foundation, Haldeman said.

Haldeman said Osmo games, with their physical component, give children a better understanding of the computer-based coding even if its subconscious. In the upper grades, Cocalico school offers students the chance to explore more with other apps and miniature robots they can control from their tablets.

“The second graders don’t know they’re coding,” Haldeman said. “When they get to Dash and Dot next, it will start to make sense.”

In other action Monday, the board approved a $26,000 contract with AEM Architects to create a concept plan for a renovated services center and review physical needs at the district’s five schools. An eventual services center upgrade would improve space used by Cocalico’s building and grounds, transportation and food service departments.

Business manager Sherri Stull said the center behind the district’s administrative offices has not been updated since it was built, and employees are now crowded into the outdated facility.

The second review will include a walk-through if each building to examine roofs, furnaces, and other big-ticket items. Results will inform the district’s long-range planning and budgeting process.

Board members also approved a $54,916 contract to replace flooring in the nurse’s office, library and cafeteria hallway at Cocalico High School and a new, two-year contract with Substitute Teacher Services. Substitute teachers will earn $120 per day through the 2019-20 school year.

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