Hour of Code 2016: Bigger and Better than Ever!

Here I am, explaining coding to students at Julian Curtiss School.  Photo by  Heather McGuinness

Here I am, explaining coding to students at Julian Curtiss School.

Photo by  Heather McGuinness

Tis the season… to teach kids coding! For the third year in a row, the Bruce Museum is bringing free Hour of Code programs to schools throughout Greenwich and beyond during the month of December. Hour of Code is a global initiative with the goal of bringing an hour of computer coding lessons to as many students as possible. Over 300 million students across the world have participated in Hour of Code since 2013. Here at the Bruce Museum, we're doing our part to contribute to those numbers. 

Kari the Kairuku  Art by Kate Dzikiewicz

Kari the Kairuku

Art by Kate Dzikiewicz

We code using the free online program Scratch in grades 4-8. Using Scratch, students learn how to use code to animate characters and create interactive stories, games, and scenes. Last year, we taught Scratch coding using generic characters. This year, I’ve redeveloped our programming to have a unique Bruce Museum twist: Kari the Kairuku penguin has appeared help students learn how to code. 

Our very own science curator, Dr. Daniel Ksepka, named and described this penguin species in 2012.  Kairuku penguins lived 27 million years ago and stood over four feet tall, making them one of the largest penguins ever discovered. Students are introduced to coding via a short educational animation about the extinct penguins and then go on and make their own. Through the art of coding, Kari the Kairuku has gone from the ancient beaches of New Zealand to the soccer field, and beyond.

This student I taught coded their sprites to move and change color. We're very concerned about hostile wizard attacks against penguins here at the Bruce.

Last year we reached exactly 550 students with our Hour of Code programming. We're proud to announce that our numbers have more than doubled this year, thanks in part to the addition of programs geared towards younger learners. As of now, our planned sessions will reach a record-breaking 1,308 students. Interest in Hour of Code has surpassed our wildest expectations, and we're delighted to be able to code with so many of our local students this month. 

Though some students already have experience in Scratch or other creative coding platforms, for many, this is their first introduction into the world of computer science. Given that advanced computer science courses are among the least diverse in all of academia, it is especially relevant to introduce as wide a range of students as possible to coding at a young age.

At the end of Hour of Code, many students have asked me about using Scratch at home.  It is my personal hope that if they have a fun and engaging experience with Hour of Code now, that it might kindle an interest in computer science for students that otherwise would have felt disconnected from the field. A student at Julian Curtiss School lived up to that hope, saying about programming with Scratch that “It was fun and exciting and I want to do it again!”

We sure hope she does!

Want to try out Scratch coding for yourself? Click here to see the Bruce Museum’s profile on Scratch. Students are introduced to coding via the “Kari’s Story” animation. Then, they make remixes of the “Bruce Museum Hour of Code 2016” project. To try it out, click on the featured project, click on the “see inside” button at the top right of the page, and get coding!

If you want to learn even more about our Hour of Code programs, check out our coverage in the Greenwich Time paper.

- Kate Dzikiewicz, Paul Griswold Howes Fellow