June 11, 2014 - Kids like playing computer games. Students at Pine Knob Elementary spent the year learning how to make them.
Fourth grrader Jonathan Pfieffer, at left, shows first grader Nathan Cairns a game created by the coding club. Photos by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
"They taught me a lot of things with coding they became the experts on technology," said fourth grade teacher Lisa Drew during the Coding Club's presentations to parents, June 4.
Lori Banaszak, technology integration specialist for Clarkston Community Schools, started the club after presenting a workshop on coding instruction for elementary students earlier this school year.
"Kids want to do more with computers," Banaszak said. "They learned how to create a project for someone else, not just to do it, but why to do it. They play games all the time. This teaches them to be a creator, not just a consumer."
It will also be good experience for when they enter secondary school technology programs, she said.
Fourth grader Ashlyn Pew was interested in learning about technology, and how to make games and activities.
"My dad works in that business, with firewalls and technology," Pew said.
Classmate Alyson Wilson also has a father in the technology business.
"He has to code with numbers I was interested in learning what he does," Wilson said. "I learned a lot. In the beginning, I didn't know how to do most of it, but she (Wilson) helped me. And when I learned how to do something like change costumes, I showed her how to do it."
"They teach each other it's really interesting," Drew said.
"I've always wanted to create computer games," said fourth grader Trent Schneling. "I learned a lot. I learn that when you make a lot of mistakes, you have to start over, but keep on going and you'll usually do better."
Using the website Scratch.mit.edu, a Flash-based programming language and online community, fourth and fifth graders spent lunch and recess time every Wednesday learning how to program games and activities. Last Wednesday, they demonstrated math games they made for first graders, with graphics, music, levels, and rewards.
"They made games to engage the kids," Drew said. "They had to code the game to tell it what to say when the player gets the question right, and what to say if the answer is wrong."
It takes a lot of consistency and patience, doing the same thing over and over, she said.
Independence and Springfield Plains elementary schools also have coding clubs. Banaszak hopes to spread the club to all the schools in the district.
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.