First-graders at Robert E. Lee Elementary School are learning computer science while incorporating it into the holiday season.
Hannah Thomas’ first-grade math students put their new coding knowledge to work this week, using Christmas-colored beads to create coded bracelets and necklaces that can be decoded to reveal a secret message using the binary number system of 0s and 1s.
“Computer coding is quickly becoming a skill students need to be exposed to due to the technology that students have in their hands every day,” Thomas said. “When students understand how and why computers work, this allows them to use them more effectively.”
In binary, a specific code is used to represent each letter of the alphabet using only the numbers 1 and 0. For example, the letter A is coded as 0100001. B is encoded as 01000010.
Using red and green beads, students were able to pick which color they wanted to represent each number. For example, a student could choose a red bead to represent the number 1 and a green bead to represent the number 0.
Once students decided what their coded message would be, they strung their beads accordingly. The personalized message could consist of anything the student wanted to say, but because each letter is represented by eight beads, most messages were just three letters – or 24 beads – long.
“I made a necklace that says BFF,” said first-grader Anna Campbell. “It was lots of work, and most of it was made out of green and red beads. It holds my hair, and it reminds me of all my friends.”
According to Thomas, incorporating the holiday season into a learning experience is fun for students. It allows them to use the skills they are learning in real-life scenarios in a fun, educational, interactive and hands-on way.
“It’s an awesome experience for students to connect the science and math behind computers and use it to create words that relate to the holiday season,” Thomas said. “It is an incredible experience to mesh their excitement for Christmas and knowledge of computer coding to create a meaningful, learning experience.”
Through the experience of learning binary computer codes, students have observed that there is a new and growing demand for computer technologists.
“Learning about binary coding has opened doors and opportunities for students that some did not even realize were there,” Thomas said. “Some students have even expressed wanting to be coders when they grow up.”
Students in every grade are beginning to incorporate computer technology into their curriculum, Thomas said.
“All grades are being exposed to coding in some capacity,” she said. “In first grade, we are laying the foundation for an understanding of coding. Students in the upper grades at Robert E. Lee are using this computer coding knowledge to code their own video games and create computer programs.”
Computer coding is just one of the several projects and skills-developing activities Robert E. Lee students enjoy throughout the year. To keep up with the students’ activities, follow the school’s Facebook page.
Faith Few can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.