Google teaches students about coding at EIS

By on April 9, 2018

Ephrata Intermediate Google Coding Rep. Lloyd Smucker addressing the 5th grade students.

“You are all fortunate to be in a school district like Ephrata,” said U.S. Congressman Lloyd Smucker to the gymnasium full of students at Ephrata Intermediate School Tuesday morning.

Rep. Smucker was a special attendee at Ephrata Intermediate School, located at 957 Hammon Ave., where a Computer Science Road Show was held for fifth graders to teach them about the benefits of coding and the importance of computer science as they grow up and begin to choose future occupations.

Smucker has worked to ensure that students in Pennsylvania have access to quality education through their schools, and the Ephrata Area School District has continued to work with students and educate them on computer science and why it is important, now, in the 21st century.

The event was hosted by Google, after reaching out to the school district about their Google Computer Science First program, which geared towards helping students learn about coding and revealing the countless things that can be done through computer science, and coding, specifically.

“Kids make mistakes, and then they can recover from those mistakes,” said Dr. Brian Troop, superintendent for the Ephrata Area School District. “That is how they use problem solving with coding.”

Expression and problem solving go hand-in-hand when it comes to coding. Students can use it to create something, but it can also be used to problem solve their way through any mistakes.

“The Google Computer Science First program is used to introduce computer science to students, so that they can actually use it later in life,” said Google spokesperson Amanda Faulkner.

“We’ve presented these programs all over the country, and we want as many students involved as possible in the program,” Faulkner continued.

Computer science is important in Ephrata schools. Students begin learning about it in the first grade, and by seventh grade, it’s an elective option for those who want to take the classes. It helps to prepare students for the work force and aid them in receiving a meaningful income for their future.

“Computers are becoming more of something that we need to understand,” said Troop. “Students are making things with their hands through a computer, and it shows them that there are so many options with coding.”

With new technology over recent years, careers in computer science continue to grow. Computer science was always something used for school projects, or to win another Ephrata Science Fair award, but it has also gradually becomes something that students can one day make into a career.

Chris Jansen and Nick Fung, presenters for Google and coding experts, conducted Tuesday’s event by teaching the fifth graders how to do coding themselves through Scratch, a program that allows young people to create their own interactive stories, games and animations.

“These types of programs show how fun it is to take on the challenge of coding,” said Jansen. “You are giving the computer instructions to follow and it creates the story.”

Jansen and Fung showed the students how to form their own story through the Scratch program while working with a partner. Jansen demonstrated how to make the movement of water on the screen and allowed the fifth graders to then lead him through the process of making a boat look as though it was moving through water, showing them how simple coding can be to learn.

Through Scratch, young students can use “coding blocks” to set the stage for their story or creation. They can add characters or objects (sprites), and the students also choose what their story looks like, even creating motion.

Students heavily engaged in the program with their partner, both working to put their Scratch story together. Jansen and Fung also spent time assisting students that needed help.

“Behavior is never an issue with students when they are determined to accomplish something,” Troop said. “Everyone just works together so well. When the students are working to achieve something, it can be a confidence booster for them.”

Students can take what they’ve learned and use it to make a change as well. A video was presented showing a group of girls that used coding to create an app to help remove trash in their neighborhoods.

“With coding, students can feel like they have a voice in what they are creating,” said Troop.

Emily Jacoby is a staff writer for The Ephrata Review. She welcomes your comments and questions at 717-721-4434 or ejacoby@lnpnews.com.

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