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Creating an Engaging Place to Learn and Grow at Upper E: The Joy of Coding!
Steve Sideris, CHCA Lower School, Upper Elementary Principal

As we guide our students in academic, social, and emotional discovery, we are careful to consider how children prefer to learn.  All students, especially in their younger years, must feel that they have some ownership of their learning in order to fully immerse themselves in new concepts and challenging activities.  Without this, coming to school each day will feel somewhat of a grind.  If students view school as a grind when they are young, the road ahead becomes long and daunting.  We take this idea very seriously at CHCA’s Upper Elementary (Upper E) and continually aim to create highly engaging activities that ask students to solve complex problems and work cooperatively in groups. 

4th grade students using the Grid Game in Design Thinking class

Some of the best examples of our mindset for teaching at Upper E can be found in Ms. Hardy’s Technology and Design Thinking class.  In Grades 4-6, Ms. Hardy teaches students coding, media presentation, and videography, among other things.  All of the foundational skills learned in her class will help to position students well against their peers as they enter college and the general workforce later in life. 

Throughout this quarter, Ms. Hardy has been helping her students take coding to the next level.  Over the past few weeks, our Grade 4 students have been learning the importance of sequencing when creating digital code.  The students are introduced to important code vocabulary through both digital and tangible learning experiences.  One such example is can be seen in a grid game activity.  In this lesson, the students must sequence large paper code to direct a classmate in moving from point A to point B.  Activities like this are crucial for building their foundation in coding in a meaningful and engaging manner.

5th grade students creating a pancake emoji

In Grade 5, students have been applying their knowledge of code and computational thinking to produce a unique creation.  Specifically, students utilized the concept of sequencing to make a personalized edible emoji. This lesson involved multiple attempts to problem-solve and engineer an emoji pancake made by one of our pancake robots.  In order to create the pancake, the students utilized the engineer and design process (trial and error) including using me as a pretend robot while making their prototype.  From that experience, each student revised his/her code and utilized the software in order to transfer the data to the Pancake Bot.  Just like in the real world, there were many obstacles and challenges that the students needed to overcome in order to create their final product, a yummy, edible emoji pancake!

6th grade student coding in Design Thinking class
Rat emoji

In Grade 6, students completed a cross-curricular project involving their studies of the Chinese New Year and coding work completed in Design Thinking. Students formed groups to then code an autonomous Sphero Bot robot to “draw” a specific part of an animated rat character, as it is the Year of the Rat in Chinese zodiac. They worked with block code and JavaScript to cooperatively accomplish the task. When all parts were affixed together, students had created an enlarged version of the original design. 

If we want a school in which students are encouraged to take risks, so must the teachers.  At Upper E, student engagement is key.  We are so incredibly blessed to have outstanding faculty who are using innovative approaches and exploring new methods and materials in their instruction.  When teachers are passionate about their craft, the possibilities are endless!  Ms. Hardy is but one example of the many outstanding teachers (and engaging lessons) students experience at our school!