Some students at Warman Community Middle School (WCMS) are getting an early start on computer programming skills.
An extracurricular Coding Club open to Grades 5 through 8 students meets every noon hour at the school. About 20 students are members of the group, and an average of 16 kids can be found in the classroom hard at work on their computers on any given day.
“It’s a really good club,” said Asher Jenson, a Grade 6 student at WCMS. “You can get really creative with all these building blocks, or fundamentals, of coding. It’s all about computers and robotics.
“It’s a good start if you want to become a programmer or a game developer.
“Plus, it’s a lot of fun.”
WCMS teacher Cameo Rempel is the coordinator of the club. In an interview at the school on Wednesday, March 14, she said the goal is to provide students with some knowledge of how computer programming is done.
Once they understand the basics, they can start designing their own programs, she said.
“It’s all about the logic of coding,” said Rempel. “They learn how to put together a code that a computer can read, and they also learn things like de-bugging codes, and how to loop things properly so that a robot can do continuous motions, things like that.”
Rempel said the idea is to take the mystery out of computers.
“Rather than just be a passive consumer, they can get behind the screen and start designing codes that get the computer to do what they want it to do,” said Rempel. “It takes the computer experience to a whole new level.
“We want them to be active participants in technology instead of passive consumers. Instead of just playing video games, they can make their own video games, for example.”
The students learn to code, experiment with their own projects, and show off what they have accomplished.
Rempel said the students have been using a program called “Scratch” to create simple scenes and games.
“We actually started last year using the Scratch program, which is free online,” said Rempel. “We had such an interest in that, we thought we could expand it.”
Rempel applied to the Prairie Spirit Schools Foundation (PSSF) for funds to purchase additional resources for the club. A grant of $4700 was presented by the foundation to the club on March 14.
The funding will help the club purchase small robots that can be programmed by the kids to do simple motions or recognize and respond to certain objects.
“The little robot comes in pieces and we build him from a kit, and then program him to do things,” said Rempel. “It’s really cool when you have something concrete instead of just looking at a computer screen.”
Rempel said coding is not just for kids with an interest in science and computers.
“It’s for everyone,” she said, “It’s really very empowering for the students.”
Do the kids learn practical skills through the club?
“Oh yeah,” said Jenson. “It’s been really good that way. I don’t have any problem finding my way around a lot of the tech stuff we have at home.”