Cecily Heiner, an assistant professor of computer science at SUU, encouraged Whittier to participate in the program, and thanks to a follow-up email reminder just before the deadline, Whittier successfully enrolled his entire school in the program less than 24 hours before the registration period closed.
Hour of Code is a “global movement, reaching tens of millions of students in (more than) 180 countries,” according to the organization’s website. It is a “one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics.”
“Sometime during (the week of Dec. 8-12), every child in our school will participate in an hour’s worth of activities that will help teach coding, help the kids understand what it’s all about and give them exposure to what that is,” Whittier said.
Because North committed to having every one of its students participate in the program, the school was entered into a drawing to win $10,000. One school in every state and in the District of Columbia was awarded the prize. Out of approximately 270 schools in Utah that committed to having their entire student body participate, North was chosen at random to receive the $10,000 award.
“We just squeaked under the wire thanks to Cecily,” Whittier said. “She said ‘be sure to register because you’ll be eligible for this drawing’ and lo and behold, a few days later I got an email that said (North) had won.”
Students from the SUU computer science department visited North on Dec. 8 to participate in the Hour of Code program and to perform grade-level presentations for 15 to 30 minutes at a time. The presentations helped North students understand the basics of coding and kicked off the week-long coding effort.
The remainder of the coding sessions will take place during the students’ normal computer time, with each student participating for about an hour each. The coding programs are taught on Code.org and include games and tutorials for students as young as kindergarten age.
“We’re not the only (school in Iron County) participating in the program,” Whittier said. “But I figured, since we are the STEAM school and we’re supposed to be involved in that stuff, we really ought to be doing that every year … we need to be involved.”
North will use the $10,000 grant to purchase an additional lab of Chromebooks, bringing the school closer to its goal of having one computing device for every student in grades three through five. Whittier estimates the school will be able to purchase approximately 30 to 40 Chromebooks with the money.
“It will easily get us one-to-one in grades five and four,” Whittier said. “It’s going to get us very close in grade three with the systems and Chromebooks we already have.”
“The stuff that kids are able to do these days is amazing,” he added. “Kids are so computer savvy now … we are starting in second grade with keyboarding and by the time they’re in third grade, they should be doing nothing but practicing it … We’re having a lot of fun (at North). It’s good for the kids and for the community. It’s important that we start thinking more in terms of science, technology and engineering … elementary (school) is really where it all starts.”