IPS 90 launches new program to teach coding to K-2 graders

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Walking into Ms. Sorenson’s class at Ernie Pyle School 90, students put down their iPads to pick up robots. Jenina Sorenson is in her first year of teaching computer science at the school for grades K-2. This is the first time the new class is being instructed at the school. The reason for the new coding class is to get young students prepared for career opportunities in the future, especially with the forever growing digital age.

“Introducing this at such a young age allows them to have that mindset and to think outside the box of where we’re at right now with the computers,” Sorenson said. “When I first started teaching, I think we just had leap frogs and leap pads and now we’ve advanced to where every student has an iPad and every student has a computer, and it’s just so much more technologically advanced.”

The school offers students Spheros coding robots, Wonder Workshop robots, and Ozobots color coding robots for kids.

Each individual bot serves to help aid in learning the fundamentals of coding concepts to make the robots move by manual instruction of the kids. Sorenson points out that coding is becoming a major part of most workplaces as part of society’s current digital transformation.

“Just to see them have fun with learning and then realize that they have created a product to move an object and that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to coding. However you choose to code your creation is your creation,” Sorenson said.

According to Sorenson, the number of jobs that require coding skills will grow exponentially because most services and products are being digitized.

In kindergarten, students began the year learning that computers can only do what you tell them to do. They spend time acting out being a computer and listening to step-by-step directions. In the first and second grade, students spend time working on directions to move a robotic dog through a maze. Just like kindergartners, the first and second graders are doing this unplugged. In the process, first graders are writing and animating a story while in the next grade, students are working their way up to creating an online game.

Sorenson said programming at Ernie Pyle assists students on several levels:

  • Introducing teamwork: Sorenson’s system uses paired programming, which involves two students working together to code a program. One student is the driver, and the other student is the navigator. By working this way, the students learn problem-solving and working as a team, including how to communicate and express themselves and their ideas.
  • Helping to develop resilience: By learning to code, students develop the ability to bounce back after failure. Programming isn’t black and white. It is a learning process and students can try and try again until they succeed and produce the result they are looking for.
  • Developing cognitive abilities: Programming isn’t just about how to write lines of code. It is more about teaching the students to think logically. They need to see the larger problem and break it down into smaller pieces in order to solve it in an effective manner.
  • Expanding creativity: Programming teaches students to experiment and gives them the confidence to be creative. Programming gives them a chance to design something that is entirely their own. It gives them internal recognition for a job well done when they’ve created.

Sorenson believes that students learning the basics of coding will develop skills that will impact the rest of their lives. The benefits range from improving math, critical thinking, and problem-solving, which are all skills that need to be developed.

“Today, we cannot allow students to wait until college to learn coding as our society becomes more and more reliant on digitalization. We need to invest in these skills now because they are the newest generation of digital natives and are ready to embrace it,” Sorenson said.