Students learn programming with Minecraft

By Douglas McCulloch | Dec 05, 2017
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch Fifth grade teacher David Finn-Clarke helps students William Donovan and Isaiah Suarez with an issue in their program.

There’s so much interest in this year’s Hour of Code at DeMello Elementary School, staff had to make sure they had enough laptops on hand to give to students.

For the second year, tech and science teachers at the school celebrated Computer Science Education Week with before-school computer programming sessions for students in grades 1-5. It’s an expansion from last year, when the program was only offered to grades 3-5.

“We had such a big response to it, this year we wanted to open it up to grades 1-5,” said instructional technology specialist Joshua Rodrigues.

Each day, students from different grade levels took part in programming challenges run on code.org. Although there were several activities, the most popular involved the computer game Minecraft.

Instead of writing code, the website uses a simpler drag-and-drop system to issue commands to the game’s characters, from moving a certain number of spaces to interacting with obstacles and challenges.

“The students are learning the basics of coding,” Rodrigues said. “This is how they learn in the high school, but we really wanted to push that down [to the elementary schools.]”

Second graders Caroline Leone and Madilynn Santos had advanced through the Minecraft program until they were challenged to build a house.

The pair both had different ideas on what they wanted their house to look like, and told their programs to drop blocks along their screens to outline their foundations. Although tougher than the beginner levels, Leone said she’s always up to the challenge.

“When you start to do this it gets more hard,” Leone said. “It’s fun to figure out how to do it.”

Second graders Caroline Leone and Madilynn Santos work on their programs. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
35 students participated in the Hour of Code on December 5. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
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