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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Bella Vista Students Crack The Code

Jan 09, 2015 10:01AM ● By Marci Heugly

Bella Vista Elementary students learn computer programming while they participate in the Hour of Code event. Photo courtesy of Sara McBee

Technology is no longer a futuristic notion, but an ingrained part of our lives. One teacher at Bella Vista Elementary wants to ensure that her students are using real-world applications while they enjoy the virtual world of video games.

“When I heard about the Hour of Code, I thought it sounded so cool,” said fifth-grade teacher Sara McBee. “Here was a chance to do something different while using their skills like math and reading.”

The Hour of Code is a global movement powered through the nonprofit website The goal is to encourage students to devote one hour to computer programming.

According to the website, “Computer science is a top-paying college degree and computer programming jobs are growing at two times the national average. Despite growing demand for jobs in the field, it remains marginalized throughout the United States K-12 education system.”

Schools across the country were invited to participate during the week of Dec. 8-14 and devote one hour to teaching their students how to write computer code.

“I have a large class; there are 33 students and seven of them are girls,” McBee said. “A lot of these kids are into video games, and I think this is the time to help our kids understand how it all works.”

Sallie Warnecke, an education technology specialist from Canyons School District, came to Bella Vista to teach the students how to write code. They were able to choose different games to play, but instead of clicking on an arrow, they had to write code for each movement.

“They could play ‘Angry Birds’; they could play a ‘Frozen’ game. For them to complete one level, it took about 20 minutes,” McBee said. “They had to tell the computer what they wanted it to do next. If they wanted the bird to move four steps to the right, they had to write a set of code.”

The students seemed to enjoy the experience and now have the option to write code during free time at school.

“We tend not to focus much on the computer science aspect of common core, but this is a fun way to incorporate it into our curriculum,” McBee said.

At the end of the hour, each participant got a certificate showing that they had completed an hour of code. “They thought the world had stopped moving; it was so cool,” McBee said.