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Delmarva Christian Schools Milton Campus (DCMC) students in grades kindergarten through eighth participated in “Hour of Code” throughout the week of December 7.

Hour of Code is a weeklong initiative from Code.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making computer science education more accessible to students of all ages, locations, and backgrounds.

DCMC fourth-grade students Jose Lemus and Ben Yerkes listen to Computer teacher Mrs. Patterson’s instructions before starting their Hour of Code tutorial on Monday, December 7.

DCMC fourth-grade students Jose Lemus and Ben Yerkes listen to Computer teacher Mrs. Patterson’s instructions before starting their Hour of Code tutorial on Monday, December 7.

A now-annual event at DCMC, computer teacher Mary Patterson has found that Hour of Code goes beyond teaching the basics of computer science and also fosters problem-solving, analytical, and logic skills in her students.

“We’re teaching kindergarteners what an algorithm is—in their first week,” said Patterson. “Students are even picking up things like orientation skills, learning the difference between North, South, East, and West while going through the tutorials.”

Hour of Code does more than teach DCMC students the basics of computer science. For third grader Abigail Bradley, the hour-long tutorials help her practice distinguishing between “left” and “right.”

Hour of Code does more than teach DCMC students the basics of computer science. For third grader Abigail Bradley, the hour-long tutorials help her practice distinguishing between “left” and “right.”

For Hour of Code, Code.org offers a variety of hour-long lessons that introduce students to different basic coding concepts. DCMC students chose from a variety of self-guided tutorials that starred characters from Star Wars, Disney’s Frozen, open world video game Minecraft, and Flappy Bird, among others.

The tutorials are targeted towards students of all ages. Take this year’s student favorite, Minecraft, for example. Before a student starts the Minecraft-themed tutorial, they watch a short video featuring Jens Bergensten, the lead developer at Minecraft. Not only does he introduce the skills that the student will learn in the next hour, but he also explains how he first became interested in computer programming, giving the student a real-world perspective on the value of learning these coding techniques. After the video, the student then chooses from two characters (“Alex” or “Steve”) and is presented their task: to move their character through the Minecraft world.

Fourth grader Aiden Brobyn explains how to navigate through the Minecraft tutorial to DCMC Principal John Sadler during Hour of Code on Monday, December 7, at Delmarva Christian Schools Milton Campus.

Fourth grader Aiden Brobyn explains how to navigate through the Minecraft tutorial to DCMC Principal John Sadler during Hour of Code on Monday, December 7, at Delmarva Christian Schools Milton Campus.

The tutorial looks like a computer game; though, instead of a traditional mouse-click, the student builds code to get their character to the designated destination. To do this, Code.org incorporates software called Blockly to teach the student how to write and implement Javascript code to direct their character’s actions.

After they’ve completed the hour-long lesson, the student has successfully learned how to use “commands,” “repeat loops,” and “if statements,” basic skills used by professional Javascript coders worldwide.

The tutorials are as fun as they are educational, leading some DCMC students to continue the lessons outside of the computer lab.

“Some students play these games at home, which is exciting because the purpose of Hour of Code is to get students interested in the programming field,” said Patterson. “Learning these concepts early can lead to a future job.”

Even if the students are having too much fun to recognize it, they are learning.

“There are paper assessments that the students can take home so their parents can see—they’re not just playing games—they’re actually learning,” said Patterson.

Hannah Megonigal, a fourth-grade student at Delmarva Christian Schools Milton Campus, works through the Minecraft tutorial during Hour of Code on Monday, December 7.

Hannah Megonigal, a fourth-grade student at Delmarva Christian Schools Milton Campus, works through the Minecraft tutorial during Hour of Code on Monday, December 7.

Though the Hour of Code campaign ran from December 7-13, DCMC students are far from finished with their coding lessons.

“Hour of Code is just the introduction,” said Patterson. “We will continue teaching these concepts in computer class through the spring.”

DCMC Computer teacher Mary Patterson shows students how to navigate the Hour of Code website on Monday, December 7.

DCMC Computer teacher Mary Patterson shows students how to navigate the Hour of Code website on Monday, December 7.