For the second straight year, Grade 5 students at Sacred Heart School/ École Sacré Coeur in Estevan have been able to learn through a computer programming class.
Seventeen students have been meeting in the school’s library during their lunch break every Wednesday to further their computer skills. Through a program called Tynker, the students receive a learning experience that is offered at only a handful of schools across Canada.
“Tynker teaches them visual programming, right from the beginning concepts of understanding how the computer is talking through a game, and builds on the concepts week after week for them,” said Melanie Dzeryk, the president of the school community council (SCC).
There are interactive exercises, guided tutorials, fun creativity tools, puzzles and more to make the class fun.
Each week, the students log in and continue from where they off. The Tynker software takes them through a lesson plan, and there is a quiz at the end. Once the quiz is finished, students move onto the next lesson.
“It guides through each step of which code they need to put in there to do something, and then they can hit play to see if what they’ve done is correct. If it’s not, then they can go back and fix it,” said Dzeryk. “They have to make sure they’re reading through everything to know what to do. You can’t just skip ahead and put anything on the screen. It’s not going to work.”
There are 17 lessons through the Tynker program, but the Grade 5s will only work their way through eight of them. They can finish the remaining lessons at home.
“If they get through all of the lessons … they will eventually have a game app created that they could have their family or friends play,” said Dzeryk.
Last year there were 10 Grade 5 students who went through the program. Dzeryk believes it’s the best grade to offer the program, and the SCC is optimistic the course can be offered each year.
“They’re ready to work on their own,” said Dzeryk. “They can understand the concepts without us having to go through everything with them.”
The students are enjoying the program, too. Those who are a little more advanced will help their peers.
“You can see the kids progressing along,” said Dzeryk. “It’s neat to see them be excited when they get a chunk of code to work that maybe they didn’t think they would get going, or they add some characters to their screen, and all of a sudden the character is dancing or running away from a shooting gun.”
Kiral Murphy, a Grade 5 French Immersion, is among the students who have enjoyed the program. He was drawn to the simple animation aspect of the program.
“I thought it would be cool to do simple animation and programming,” he said.
It’s a challenging program, but once he got past the tough parts, it’s also a lot of fun.
Kiral isn’t a big computer person, as he’d rather be outside or reading a book, but it’s still been an enjoyable experience.
Last year students worked from desktop computers. The SCC and the school each purchased 15 Chrome Book tablets for the 2015-16 school year, and Dzeryk said it made a big difference.
The SCC also pays for the licences for the computer programming course.
Dzeryk is from a computer programming background. She saw how much her son enjoyed working with computers, so she thought it would be a good idea for Sacred Heart to acquire the Tynker software.
“I feel that computer programming is a great way to teach all types of concepts to kids,” said Dzeryk.
Computer programming helps students enhance their knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math, and Dzeryk believes the skills they learn during the course are the types of abilities needed for the job market, both now and in the future.