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Elementary students introduced to new language in 'Hour of Code'
Prepping for the information age

Elementary students introduced to new language in 'Hour of Code'

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RACINE — Computer code is the language of the future, and last week students at Red Apple Elementary as young as 5 years old began to learn about it.

In the school’s crowded library, kindergarten and first grade students huddled in front of laptops in pairs, working to move Lightbot from lighted square to lighted square. The youngsters stared at their computers in concentration, argued with their partners over the right moves and cheered in celebration when they got the moves rights as they played the online game that teaches users programming logic.

“Their level of excitement has excited me,” said Racine Unified Superintendent Eric Gallien, who attended the event on Thursday.

Higher Expectations for Racine County, along with Dream Hustle Code, a Chicago nonprofit, worked together to bring the Hour of Code pilot program to all students at Red Apple, Julian Thomas and Dr. Jones elementary schools last week. After seeing the results, Gallien said he hopes to expand the program next year.

The Hour of Code is an international movement that has reached tens of millions of students in more than 180 countries. The event, typically held in December, is a one-hour introduction to computer coding.

Dream Hustle Code

Dulcevita Brock, along with her husband Michael and son Ian, founded Dream Hustle in 2013. They typically help to coordinate one Hour of Code event each year.

Brock said they were inspired to start the nonprofit because of her son’s interest in computer science and after learning that 90 percent of schools in United States don’t teach the subject.

They hope that the Hour of Code empowers underrepresented groups like blacks and girls to get into coding.

Figuring it out

Teachers and volunteers on Thursday made it a point not to give the students answers when they were stuck, but guided them in the right direction and allowed them to make mistakes.

Al Johnson, with Higher Expectation, said at first the kids were generally apprehensive about learning about programming, but after they got the hang of it, they were motivated to figure out the answers on their own.

“It’s very exciting to watch them grasp it,” Johnson said.

In August, Code.org is set to host a computer science workshop for Racine Unified elementary teachers.

“We’d love to see Racine start some type of initiative,” Dulcevita Brock said.

A previous version of this article misstated the organization that is set to host the workshop for Racine Unified teachers. 

“Their level of excitement has excited me.” Eric Gallien, Racine Unified Superintendent

“Their level of excitement has excited me.” Eric Gallien, Racine Unified Superintendent 

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Reporter

Caitlin Sievers covers education in Racine County with a primary focus on Racine Unified School District. Before moving to the Racine area she worked at small papers in Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska.

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