A sign on the wall of the computer lab at Rolling Hills Elementary eloquently summed up the spirit of Kamala Schuster's first-grade technology class on Dec. 7.
"CODING: It may be the closest thing we have to a superpower," the placard read, and the students were working hard to realize that potential power. Each had grabbed an iPad from the classroom's bank of tablets, and they were working in an application called "Scratch Jr." to create their own interactive greeting cards.
From programming animations to writing their names in decorative, artistic strokes, the students were well on their way to building their coding skills and thus, if the sign was to be believed, their own superpowers.
These first-graders weren't alone. In Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) classes across the Cherry Creek School District, the country and the globe, students celebrated the Hour of Code movement, a worldwide academic push to focus on learning computer science and computer programming. The movement offers a springboard into the technological language of the future for students of all backgrounds and interests, and represents a valuable fusion of scientific and creative realms of thinking and learning.
Schuster wanted to offer her students the perfect marriage of those disciplines for all of her students. Kids across different grade levels focused on coding projects of varying difficulty throughout the week, and all of the activities encouraged a melding of technical know-how and creative inspiration.
"Creating is my big thing; I always want my kids to be creating," Schuster said, adding that the emphasis on individual expression helps build an early interest in technology. "We're setting the building blocks for them to know how to move on to the next step and to know how to use technology responsibly."
In the process, the students have the opportunity to see a project progress from concept to reality. Along the way, they work to resolve the myriad smaller issues that come as part of the larger effort. That brand of on-the-spot, improvisatory learning is a hallmark of innovation in education, she noted.
"I'm leading different activities in each class, and the biggest goal for me is encouraging critical thinking and problem-solving," Schuster said. "If they're working on coding and they can't figure something out, they have to work to discover what part of their code is wrong. That's a real-world skill that all of us could use."
By taking part in the global Hour of Code initiative, the first-graders and the rest of the technology students at Rolling Hills and the rest of the Cherry Creek School District took a valuable step in matching their current learning style to the academic and professional demands of the future.
They created some pretty dazzling greeting cards along the way.