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Stoking curiosity in elementary students through coding basics

Communications

In District One91, the commitment to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) not only exposes students to a variety of concepts earlier in life, it also helps produce a sense of consistent wonder. And that’s perfect, because our elementary Pathways model is all about making discoveries and helping students love learning. 

“What’s been so fun is to watch second and third grade teachers — some of whom have little experience with technology — be excited about what the kids are doing. It’s really powerful.”

- Jon Bonneville, Ed.D, Associate Director of Systems Improvement and Student Achievement (SISA)

For our second and third grade learners, coding is the official introduction to computer science, but according to Jon Bonneville, Ed.D, Associate Director of Systems Improvement and Student Achievement (SISA) in District 191, it’s a creative, social way of learning — and even better, students really love it.

“Students use the program Scratch to create and animate an illustrated character,” Bonneville said. “You can make it move and say things using particular types of coding that can be linked together. It just builds the understanding and capacity while kids are having a great time.”

Bonneville said students use this program 30 minutes per week, and once they’ve mastered the early stages, the inquiry-based approach allows them to work at their own pace.

Bonneville said students use this program 30 minutes per week, and once they’ve mastered the early stages, the inquiry-based approach allows them to work at their own pace.

“It’s designed to support students as far as they want to take it,” Bonneville said. “Plus, they’re able to save what they create and share it with each other. Students can comment on each other’s work, which is a great way to encourage one another and just show what you’ve created.”

Helping teachers get ready

In 2020, District 191 received the Universal Plus grant, which supports advanced learning across all elementary schools. One of the things it affords is the chance to help elementary teachers — especially ones without significant technology expertise — learn to lead students in this early exposure to coding. 

“What’s been so fun is to watch second and third grade teachers — some of whom have little experience with technology — be excited about what the kids are doing,” Bonneville said. “It’s really powerful.”

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) works in partnership with Scratch to provide training for district staff. According to Bonneville, teachers have experienced not just online training, but also 1-on-1 sessions with Scratch instructors to get to the point where they can effectively facilitate.

“We’re excited not just because our teachers are able to be a part of it this year, but because the training and programming are so good that we know we’ll be able to offer the same quality of education long into the future,” he said.

  • Digital Learning
  • Elementary School
  • Partnerships
  • Pathways
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