In one hour Tuesday, Lake Myra Elementary School students showed Knightdale High School students they know a thing or two when it comes to computer programming.
And the older students were impressed by how much their younger counterparts could do.
“I didn’t even know what she was doing,” KHS sophomore Selena Perez said of fifth-grader Layla Auteri. “And I didn’t know what to do until she got here.”
Perez and Auteri were among hundreds of students participating in an Hour of Code event in conjunction with Computer Science Education Week. The entire fifth-grade class from the elementary school visited the high school for 60 minutes of paired programming sessions.
The students worked in tutorials that look a lot like computers games, but are designed to teach basic coding and problem solving.
“It means to basically figure out problems on a computer,” Auteri explained. “It’s not really hard – the second time it’s pretty easy, you just have to figure it out sometimes.”
Auteri and Perez spent much of their time together working in a Minecraft-themed tutorial. Sophomore Giselle Rebollar and fifth-grader Illyana Evans worked in one themed after the movie “Frozen.”
In both cases, they directed a character to carry out the different objectives prescribed from one level to the next. To do so, they had to key in, or code, step-by-step commands ahead of time, and repeat the process as many times as necessary to accurately guide their character in the task.
“I’d never partnered with a kid from elementary school before, and it was fun,” Rebollar said. “It impressed me. (Evans) would tell me the moves – she wasn’t afraid to tell her opinions and how to work the game and that was impressive.”
Perez said she thought the coding experience may have been more beneficial for the people her partner’s age, but KHS librarian Kristel Behrend said the high school students were learning a fair amount whether they realized it or not.
“This is perfect for them to understand they may not be perfect at something right away,” Behrend said. “We’re moving to project-based learning (at Knightdale High), and this would definitely be a skill.”
Behrend used to work at Lake Myra alongside instructional technology facilitator Elizabeth Adams. The two arranged Tuesday’s joint venture.
“We’ve been wanting to piece this together anyway, plus we want our elementary students to have a positive impression of what their high school could be like,” Behrend said.
Students at Lake Myra began participating in Hour of Code three years ago. Adams has offered coding opportunities in her STEM classes ever since.
Learning computer code at a young age is valuable in this day and age, when there are some 1million programming jobs that go unfilled every year, Adams said.
She said the event at the high school also served as a confidence booster for the younger students.
“I think it just kind of opened our students’ eyes to what high school is like and then surprised them to find they, in some cases, knew more than these high school students,” Adams said. “That’s not their mindset – that’s not how they thought this would go.”