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Sheridan schools participate in Hour of Code



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SHERIDAN, Wyo. (AP) — On a recent afternoon, students at five Sheridan public schools gathered in clusters around Chromebooks to learn and practice coding.

The event was part of a weeklong dive into computer programming, in conjunction with Hour of Code — an international nonprofit aimed at boosting young students' interest and knowledge in computer science.

Henry A. Coffeen, Sagebrush and Woodland Park elementary schools all participated, as did Sheridan Junior High School, Fort Mackenzie High School and The Wright Place Middle School.

Zachary Kelly, an eighth-grader at SJHS, sat at a library desk, clicking and dragging blue blocks into line on a blank section of the screen. The blocks said things like, "turn left" or "run." It looked like a brainy version of a video game.

"Well, it's kinda like you're making one," Kelly said.

Kelly said he's done more difficult coding with his uncle, who works at Microsoft and lives in Seattle. Kelly isn't sure if he wants to be a biologist or a programmer when he grows up, but he sees some definite benefits to the latter.

"You get a lot of money from coding, you get paid a lot," he said. "So that's cool."

SJHS Librarian Julie Weitz said that many students were ready to move on to coding languages, such as JavaScript. But the drag-and-drop building games Kelly was playing are a good place to start.

"The beginning code — the blocks that you saw them putting together — that's the way coding initially is taught," she said. "So, even at MIT, I read, or Stanford, initially coding is taught with blocks."

Nikki Jaramillo, also in eighth grade at SJHS, said the event was her first time trying to code, and she liked it. At first the work was easy, but it got harder as the levels progressed.

"And if it doesn't work, you just keep doing it and doing it until you actually pass the level or get it right," she said.

She thinks she might do more coding during down time in her study hall.

SJHS did the Hour of Code last year, but Weitz said turnout was much higher this year — with boys and girls alike.

"I'm thinking that that's a difference in education and how we're doing things in science and math these days," Weitz said. "I think we're starting to turn a corner where, you know, you wouldn't even question that a girl would code. Because here they all are. It's great."

Weitz was pleased to hear the announcement at a school board meeting that coding classes will be offered at SJHS next year.

"And that's huge. I'm so happy that we're going to be doing that, because you can see how excited the kids are," Weitz said. "They're sharing what they're doing with one another."

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Information from: The Sheridan (Wyo.) Press, http://www.thesheridanpress.com/

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Phoebe Tollefson

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