STEM: Coding in Elementary
If you are around any school you have probably heard the buzz words STEM, STEAM, or coding. However, you may not be aware of what exactly those words mean or how they relate to your students. Here at Christian Life School, we are serious about making sure our students have every opportunity to learn. Technology is one area in which we excel by offering our elementary students the latest learning experiences.
Buzz Words: STEM or is it STEAM?
It’s both! STEM or STEAM is a way to integrate science, technology, engineering, arts, and math into the classroom. Although the term STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) has been around since the early 2000s, it did not make its way significantly into the classroom until this last decade. This push to add the Arts STEAM has gained momentum over the last several years. As you can imagine, students are always excited to come to the technology lab! As we introduce new ideas and skills, they are able to utilize those skills in the classroom and carry them through their educational career.
Emphasizing the technology part of STEM helps us recognize that computer science is as essential in the 21st century as reading, writing, and math. Studies by Code.org demonstrate students are able to learn through technology the basics of Computer Science while combining classroom content and excelling as high achievers! Standardized testing scores rise when students code.
Coding is an area that the students are always enthusiastic about learning. Our elementary students are no strangers to coding. At CLS we have taught Hour of Code, Scratch, and CodeAcademy, along with BeeBots for our younger students. Each of these programs allows the students to enjoy creating with coding at their level while challenging them at the same time.
Coding Benefits Reaches Cross Curricular and More!
When we think of coding, many of our thoughts go to programming. While programming is a noteworthy skill, there are a number of other skills learned in coding that are beneficial for our students.
One of the first benefits of coding is exposing students to learning a new way of thinking: critical thinking. As educators, we all know the importance of using critical thinking skills, but it does not come naturally. Coding is an excellent way to develop those skills. As Jennifer Williams states in her article at We Are Teachers, “You can’t just wing it when you’re working on a coding problem. You really have to take the time and energy to look at it and understand it at a different level. Just think about how helpful that will be in other areas of a student’s schooling.”
In a culture where immediate gratification is the typical approach, coding instills persistence. Have you ever watched a child click out of something on the computer to say “it’s just too hard?” The motto in my classroom is, “we do hard things!” It takes persistence, not giving up and coding helps build that essential life skill that will benefit students for a lifetime.
Unless you live as a recluse, collaborating is an almost everyday occurrence. Learning to work well with others in an important life skill. We don’t always have the same opinions, thoughts of how to do things, or areas of expertise, but even as adults we need to know how to collaborate with others. Coding helps implement good collaboration practices at a young age that will benefit students into adulthood. “Kids meet and learn how to collaborate with all kinds of peers, all joined by a common interest in technology,” states Ryan from iDTech. What better way to learn collaboration than through something as fun as coding!
In a day and age where we are becoming more cloistered as a society, coding helps our students realize the many benefits of communicating well with others. One example of communication in coding is chatting online. Not only can it be a major factor in coding it also takes one on one communication. Having our students work with partners while coding encourages them to explain the steps they are taking in coding by learning how to break it down in a way that the other person can comprehend. This skill carries over into the classroom and throughout life. As they communicate they explore other ways of explaining the process: even though it makes sense to them, it may not make sense to their partner and thus they need to figure out another way to explain.
Coding programs push students to think on their own! They can use the skills they have learned in their lessons to come up with their own designs. Creativity has, in a way, become a lost art. Where most students have everything done for them and handed to them, coding encourages creativity and students bring it to life. Students begin to tap into an experimenter’s mindset, whole brain thinking, and an innate desire to be a creator (and not just a consumer).
Coding for All Ages!
It is often thought that the best ages to introduce coding are upper elementary or older. However, there are so many great age-appropriate programs it would be a loss to only start coding in upper elementary. At Christian Life School, one of the favorites with our kindergarten and first-grade students is using BeeBots.
BeeBots are robotic bees that can be programmed by the student. Currently, our technology lab has four BeeBots to allow multiple groups to code at the same time. Coding lessons can be tailored to complement what the students are learning in their classrooms: sequencing a story, learning shapes, colors, letters, math, and so much more.
Coding compliments cross-curricular areas and encourages the students to be critical thinkers, persistent, collaborative, and creative. As Christian Life School continues to devote efforts to be a top private school, we will continue to enhance efforts to bring the best STEM/STEAM opportunities to our students.
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- (Rep.). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www2.ccs.neu.edu/racket/pubs/sigcse-sfkf.pdf
- Harrell, M. (2015, March 17). Add Coding to Your Elementary Curriculum. . . Right Now. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/add-coding-elementary-curriculum-now-matt-harrell
- Loewus, L. H. (2015, April 02). When Did Science Education Become STEM? Retrieved from https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2015/04/when_did_science_education_become_STEM.html
- Ryan, Ryan, Ryan, Kendall, Brooke, Sarah, . . . Alycia. (n.d.). 9 Reasons Why Kids & Teens Should Learn to Code | Importance & Benefits for Students. Retrieved from https://www.idtech.com/blog/5-reasons-your-child-should-learn-to-code
- Tynker, A. (2018, March 01). Tynker. Retrieved from https://www.tynker.com/blog/articles/ideas-and-tips/learning-to-code-develops-creativity-in-kids/
- Williams, J. (2017, July 15). Important Skills Kids Learn Through Coding. Retrieved from https://www.weareteachers.com/skills-learn-coding/