Coding may seem like it’s too complicated for elementary school children but the Hour of Code, a nonprofit devoted to helping teach kids technology skills at a young age, doesn’t think it’s ever too early. Each year, the Hour of Code partners with schools all over the world to host short lessons that are meant to excite children about coding and foster the next generation of coders. One of these schools, Stratford, has 18 locations around the Bay Area and places a huge emphasis on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). They’re just one of nearly 200,000 places that participates in the Hour of Code, but they’re also one of the most interesting and dedicated places for youngsters to learn from anywhere.
Earlier this week, I spoke to Swetha Bhattacharya (Computer Science Teacher, Code.org K-5 Affiliate) and Monisha Gupt (Director of Curriculum and Assessment at Stratford) to learn they think coding is so important and how they’re teaching kids as young as preschoolers how to see the world differently.
The first thing to know is that preschoolers aren’t being propped up in front of computer terminals and being asked to create algorithms. Instead, as explained by Monisha Gupt, Stratford is trying to teach kids to see the world more pragmatically. “We want them to see the world in a different way. We want them to be resilient, to see every problem as a challenge with a solution,” she says. They do this by taking the kids outside to participate in coding-based activities. It isn’t what you’d expect “coding class” to look like, but then again, digital literacy isn’t just about knowing how to read lines of code; it’s about linking coding principles to real life situations.
“Coding isn’t boring. Coding is about creation. We want to create a generation of creators,” said Bhattacharya. Coding from a young age herself, Bhattacharya believes that like language, coding is a tool for crafting new creations. There’s no reason why we should teach English, but not coding. That’s really what the Hour of Code is all about – and why it’s such a good fit for Stratford.
One day, Gupt believes that Stratford’s emphasis on coding and STEAM won’t seem so novel. She imagines a future where all children are taught to imagine new solutions to interesting problems. “In coding,” she says, “there’s CTRL + Z. You can go back and see where the problem is and then fix it. You do that over and over again.” It’s what makes coding “fun,” something that people often knock coding for not being. Learning grammar isn’t necessarily the most fun, but that structure can help people be their most creative selves. The same can be said for coding – and for many kids, it all starts with the Hour of Code.