Coding, creativity, collaboration
Paw Creek Elementary inaugurates its computer-science
Dash and Sphero rolled around the floor of the media center at Paw Creek
Elementary. The small, roly-poly robots, reminiscent of BB-8 from Star Wars,
had been programmed by fifth-graders who were putting them through their
“Dash moves and you can make it turn its head and make sounds,” said
student Luca Close. “We’re learning to program things and have fun while we
Iyannah Derring said programming was difficult when she first started,
but now she understands it. “You just get better and better each day,”
Iyannah said. “It’s really great – you should try it.”
The Paw Creek computer-science immersion magnet program with a
science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) focus is in its first
year. The program receives students through magnet/school-options lottery
assignments as well as neighborhood attendance-zone assignments. All
students receive the same magnet-theme instruction.
The school has a partnership with Code to the Future to teach students
coding, which involves developing and writing scripts for computer programs.
Principal Danielle Belton said students learn in three different cycles. Learning
to code comes first. They move on to robotics, where they partner with other
students to build robots, and they use Minecraft to create their own computer
”In the next few years, there will be a 1 million-job gap in the computer
science field,” Belton said. “Our students are learning critical thinking,
problem solving and getting a foundation they can build on.”
Lessons are integrated into the school’s STEM unit and provide
opportunities for hands-on learning, collaboration and creativity. Students
invent something as an inventor’s project and in Genius Hour they research
and engage in projects that interest them. Students have use of an
Innovation Lab and Makerspace and have built everything from race cars and
rockets to roller coasters, Belton said.
Teacher Cassie Webb’s third-grade class was in Makerspace, working in
teams to create a structure that would keep a tissue dry when water was
poured over it. They had a limited set of materials that included cups, pipe
cleaners and cotton balls.
Webb said her students have learned a lot about collaboration and the
creative process since they began working on projects. Her students now
develop their own teams, paying attention to each other’s individual skills.
They also have overcome any frustration when a project fails.
“Now they get that process, how to evaluate what they’re doing and not
view it as a competition,” Webb said. “They’ve been a lot more invested and
8 • March/April 2018 • Parent Teacher Magazine