First- through fourth-graders throughout Lower Merion School District recently joined millions of students and educators around the world during the 2022 Hour of Code! This annual event began in 2013 as a one-hour activity where students were given a fun, introductory lesson on computer science in game-like tutorials designed to demystify "code" and introduce children of all ages and backgrounds to the exciting world of computer programming. The Hour of Code has since transformed into a global phenomenon and celebration of computer science with unprecedented support from industry giants such as Microsoft, Apple and Amazon.
As part of Computer Science Education Week (December 5-11), students in the District's six elementary schools had the opportunity to enjoy this year's Hour of Code festivities under the leadership and guidance of Elementary Technology Specialist Jen Goldberg. All of the participating students, even those with no prior coding experience, were able to work their way through grade-appropriate sets of engaging, interdisciplinary activities where they wrote their very own code using Blockly - an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop visual programming tool.
Inspired by the popular mobile game Angry Birds, first graders learned about algorithms while writing code to help an angry bird move through a maze to capture an evil pig that stole its eggs, while second graders explored programming using BeeBot robots, a hands-on tool that introduces youngsters to important coding concepts like sequencing, estimation, and problem-solving.
Students in third grade programmed their very own dance party through Code.org's Dance Party activity where they created code to choose their favorite dancers from a cute cast of critters and control their interactive animal's dance moves in response to the music, all before getting out from behind their screens to join the dance party themselves!
The activity for fourth graders, entitled NASA's Space Jam, provided students the opportunity to explore astronomy, music and programming as they created and animated solar systems and used them as musical instruments. In a series of scaffolded activities building on top of one another, students learned about astronomical objects and concepts like stars, exoplanets and orbital periods as well as musical terms like scales and octaves, which laid the foundation for a deeper dive into the fascinating process of sonification.
Sonification, simply put, is the process of translating data into sound. Using telescopes, scientists at NASA capture digital data from very distant astronomical objects in the form of binary code. Scientists are then able to translate all those ones and zeroes in to visual representations of far-off celestial bodies that would be otherwise imperceptible to human beings. To experience this data with other senses (hearing), scientists employ sonification to translate this binary and visual data into sound, providing astronomy enthusiasts the incredible opportunity to literally hear what the Crab Nebula, Perseus Cluster, Cassiopeia A and many others sound like. Pretty cool, huh? Listen here.
As usual, this year's Hour of Code activities were a resounding success! All the proof you need can be found in the smiling faces of the students in the slideshow below!