Technology is a huge lesson in learning for all generations. But who better understands the many changes and updates than students.
Hannah Kendrick’s Grade 6 class at St. Peter’s School in Unity took on their technology learning in a different way when they participated in a contest during Learning Code Week, put on by Canada Learning Code. The event is designed to help teachers get their students learning how to code. Canada Learning Code provides different lesson plans that can be used at different levels and with different levels of technology. The idea is to encourage students to use computational thinking, critical thinking and problem-solving. This year saw Canada Learning Code’s second Code Week and the second time St. Peter’s Grade 6 class has participated.
As a result, Grace 6 is an award-winning entry in the 2019 Canada Learning Code Week Most Innovative Project Contest, presented by Amazon’s Future Engineer Program.
Mrs. Kendrick says, “I always try to make my class fun. Participating in an event like Code Week, that promotes problem-solving and creativity in a fun and engaging way is kind of a no-brainer for me. I decided to enter the contest when I saw that the kids were beginning to show confidence in their coding ability and to add creative flair to their projects. My students are fairly competitive so giving them the opportunity to enter a contest helped to encourage their best work.”
Mrs. Kendrick continues, “The lesson that we chose to do was called ‘Self-Driving Cars.’ The students used a website called Scratch to block code a virtual self-driving car. They were provided with tracks that the cars would drive on, and they needed to figure out how to get their car to drive on the track and respond to the track and the obstacles. Ideally, you could switch tracks in the middle of a race and the car would adjust and stay on the road of the new track. It took a lot of trial and error and a lot of debugging. Many of the students were frustrated when they found out that they couldn’t just program their car to go in a circle.”
The contest was looking for creativity as well as evidence of computational thinking, so not only did the kids need to be able to figure out the code to make their self-driving cars run properly, they also had to make their project unique.
“We had tacos crossing the road as obstacles, squirrels running around, road signs and even an extra-terrestrial bear that explained to the player which buttons to press to change the track.”
Students were excited to learn of their win, with each winner getting a prize pack valued at approximately $100, sponsored mainly by Amazon, although many sponsors are involved. What the win means for student confidence is that while some students find coding to be fun and exciting right off the bat, others find it frustrating. A win like this validates their work and definitely boosts their confidence by seeing their hard work pay off.
About how this contest fits into the curriculum she was currently teaching, Mrs. Kendrick says, “While this specific activity can’t be assessed for content, coding is good at helping to develop 21st-century competencies (critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity and media-literacy). We’re lucky that Light of Christ School Division has been very supportive of our coding/STEM initiatives. I believe that within the next few years we’re going to see coding becoming a part of the curriculum in Saskatchewan at all levels.”
When she found out they had won, student Hudson Bretzer said, “I was happy and excited and I wanted to know what the prizes were. I feel like I have more confidence with coding and with computers and stuff, too.”
Zayden Wagner said, “Amazing! Coding is hard but fun and I definitely feel like I have more confidence in my coding after this win.”
Hailey-Lynn Aldred said, “I was really excited. My project was good and I was proud of it, but I was still surprised that we won.”