WEST PITTSTON — Children learning a new language at the West Pittston Library this week — coding.
During the library’s Coding Without Computers event, Library Services Coordinator Summer Belles used an iPad app and toys to teach kids how to sequence commands. Belles said coding activities are nt a regular feature of the library’s schedule, but she recognizes the importance of introducing young people to the subject.
“It’s important for today’s children to learn coding for the jobs of tomorrow because that’s where everything is going,” Belles said. “We have kindergarten readiness to get kids ready for kindergarten, so why not have a class to get kids ready for their future?”
The class, which ran for approximately an hour in the children’s room, started with the six attendees breaking into groups of two. Next, each group received a bag full of paper pieces depicting directional arrows and numbers. The groups used these arrows and numbers to create sequences of commands for Belles’ first activity: Hot Dog Coding.
Hot Dog Coding Game is an interactive experience developed by iGamingMom to help familiarize kids with coding. The subject matter quickly won over Steven Rogers, 4, of West Pittston.
“I like this game,” Steven said as he worked on his coding sequence. “It’s hot dogs. I love hot dogs.”
During their first activity, attendees created command sequences to move their hot dog from the bottom of a map to the top. Belles displayed the map via a projector and used a cutout hot dog to move around based on each group’s code sequence.
Steven’s mother Kendra said they’ve borrowed books about coding from the library and she’s thrilled at how interested her son is in the subject.
“It’s following instructions, which is always a good start, and then introducing how computers think and how they talk to each other is always good because he’s going to be surrounded by computers for forever,” Kendra said.
All three groups were able to move the hot dog successfully, but each took a different path to their goal. The next activitiy had paths already laid onto it and it was each group’s job to tell Belles the correct sequence for following it. The final Hot Dog Coding Game activity saw groups “debugging” a sequence by finding the errors while comparing it to the path.
Andie Belles, 10, of West Pittston, said she liked figuring out each coding puzzle and that if she ever made an iPad app, it’d be “something like this,” so other kids can learn to code, too.
After they successfully solved each hot dog-based puzzle, each group had the opportunity to play with three different coding toys.
Fisher-Price’s Code-a-pillar gives kids the chance to add segments to a white and blue electronic caterpillar. After they hit “start,” the caterpillar’s segments light up from front to back and the toy moves in the direction displayed on each.
Bee-Bot robots, made by Terrapin Software, have directional arrows on top so kids can program in directions, put bee-bot down and watch it follow the commands. Primo Toy’s Cubetto links to a command board via BlueTooth and follows the commands children program in by using various colored chips.
Kasey Morreale, 7, of West Pittston, used the Cubetto chips to tell the robot to go from point A to point P on Cubetto’s included map. She was eager to share her methodology.
“I used the blue lights,” Morreale said, explaining that she counted out movements on the map and placed chips above the many blue lights on Cubetto’s command board. Each blue light lit as Cubbetto carried out the above command.
Kasey’s partner Jenesa Sancho, 8, of West Pittston, said she wanted to learn more about coding after the event. Her mother, Katrina Perez, said that hunger for knowledge is what brought them there.
“She wanted to come when she read about it,” Katrina said. “It was something different and, for some reason, she’s into trying to learn how different things work.”
Like Andie, Jenesa would use her programming powers for good if she ever made an app for other children.
“I would make a programming unicorn game,” Jenesa said.
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