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Florida Teacher Spearheads Computer Code Learning for Young Students

An elementary school in Sarasota has become a hub of computerized creativity as pupils as young as eight learn the opportunities and challenges of programming.

by Elizabeth Djinis, Sarasota Herald-Tribune / December 7, 2018
Shutterstock/ SpeedKingz

(TNS) — Leah Holzler may only be 8, but she already has a dream to create a Youtube channel dedicated to the joys of coding and computer science.

Leah plugged in commands on her computer at Bay Haven School of Basics Plus Tuesday morning, watching as the short written cues on the computer created three cat figures dancing to the tune of Justin Bieber's "Sorry."

"Coding is fun because you can change things, you can make things do so many cool things, you can make them change color and do different dance moves," Leah said. "Coding is awesome. I want to show people how awesome it actually is."

For Bay Haven students, the first week of December marks their participation in Hour of Code, a global program intended to expose students to computer science education. Technology teacher Sarah Hu has spearheaded the program at the district's north Sarasota elementary school for the fourth year in a row.

This year, she has also prioritized the involvement of female students through Bay Haven's chapter of Girls Who Code, a national program dedicated to getting young women interested in coding and computer science. Women tend to be under-represented in computer science, Hu said, but female elementary school students often outperform their male peers in science and math. It's at the middle school level where female students' participation tends to decline, she added.

"Early exposure is key," Hu said.

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In her classes, she notices that boys and girls are often "totally equal" in their interest in computer science.

Taeghan Scott and Emily Tindell sat next to each other on their respective computer screens, watching a video instructing them how to choose a dance move for their character and pick certain commands to change how often their character completed a dance and what size the character would be.

The two female students represented the difference in interest many students have. Taeghan said she preferred to read, finding coding "sometimes confusing," while Emily admitted she had thought about pursuing technology as a career, though she is many years away from that reality.

"Sometimes coding gets my mind off of stuff when I'm mad," Emily said.

If Leah's enthusiasm is any indication, maybe girls at the elementary school level are becoming increasingly confident in their coding abilities and, perhaps, the chance to make that their job one day.

At one point, a classmate asked Leah to look at his work.

"I've already been through that level," she told him, "but you did a good job."

©2018 Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fla. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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