Eleven-year-old Hayden Jones, a Marcus Whitman sixth grader, is already an enthusiastic coder with plans to become a professional video game producer. He’s well on the way if you ask one of the presenters from Google who visited the Marcus Whitman Middle School Thursday morning.
As professionals from the tech company guided the library full of middle schoolers through the fundamentals of using coding software to create an animation, Hayden pitched in with some of his own ideas.
The hour-long presentation focuses on teaching students both problem solving and technical coding skills through a series of interactive activities. The presenters encouraged kids to develop an interest in computer science education by giving real-life examples of how coding and STEM education can lead to educational opportunities and exciting careers.
U.S. Rep Tom Reed joined the team of professionals from Google to help the students get hands-on experience using coding software called Scratch.
Reed kicked off the presentation by expressing the importance of learning about computer science at an early age, and helped kids build their own fun stories using Scratch, an introductory coding tool.
We care about ensuring our kids have fair access to the resources they need to succeed in the workplace,” Reed said. “With more than a million more open jobs then people looking for work we know developing the future of our workforce with essential skills, like STEM, is a number one priority to maintaining this booming economy our country is experiencing.”
Google has created CS First curriculum to help teachers, parents, and librarians work with students who want to explore the creative side of computers.
The springboard for Thursday’s event came from the work of Teacher Assistant Catrina Oswald, who helped middle schoolers start a technology club this year.
Program Manager Alex Sanchez is a former teacher who now works exclusively with CS First, working with teachers to set up the experiences in their own schools.
The team brings all the equipment, including several laptops for students to try their own hand at creating an animation. “We try to make it as easy as possible because we know how busy teachers are,” he says, adding, “It’s such a cool experience to show people it’s something they can do. It inspires kids to teach kids too.”
“Kids are exposed to technology at such an early age, but don’t necessarily get to learn about why computer science should be an important part of their lives - both now and in the future,” said Sanchez, adding, “We want the next generation of students to be able to create technology, not just consume it.”
Reed spent a few minutes with the students who showed him some of the skills they learned in just a few minutes.
Sanchez says while the team puts on shows all over the country at a rate of about one per week, teachers don’t need to wait to be put into the schedule. A website, csfirst.withgoogle.com, provides free curriculum for ages 9 to 14 and support to help schools start their own CS First Club.