Arwyn Brungardt has had plenty of experience with writing code.
Never mind the fact that Brungardt is only 10 years old and a fifth-grader at Antelope Ridge Elementary School; she's already gained a wide array of experience creating codes for sophisticated computer programs, online games and other Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-based assignments.
Brungardt's impressive resume in the field has everything to do with her school's commitment to the wider, worldwide Hour of Code movement. Every year since she started at Antelope Ridge as first-grader, the school has kept up a regular observance of the STEM-based celebration.
"I've done something for Hour of Code every year I've been in school," Brungardt said on Dec. 4. Around her in the Antelope Ridge media center, dozens of students worked in teams to program robots, build electronic keyboards out of simple wires and metal materials and perform other feats of engineering magic. "It's really fun to learn how to code."
According to Adam McKenzie, Antelope Ridge's STEM and technology teacher, the school's fifth consecutive year of celebrating the global Hour of Code event is its biggest. Every student in every grade had a chance to explore a wide variety of coding and STEM activities throughout the day – from programmable Ozobots to activities provided through the international STEM nonprofit code.org, students had the chance to have tactile, meaningful and memorable experiences working with coding and technology.
This year, the school also incorporated arts education into the equation (effectively putting the "A" into STEAM), offering coloring, drawing and other creative stations along with the robotics and design activities.
"Every year, it's been getting bigger and bigger," McKenzie said. "We're trying to get kids exposed to computer programming in different ways, because no matter what job they have in the future, understanding how programming works and using critical thinking skills will be important."
The students at Antelope Ridge weren't alone in celebrating the 2018 Hour of Code event. In Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) classes across the Cherry Creek School District, the country and the globe, students celebrated the international programming movement. This year's goal was to get all of the district's 44 elementary schools involved in the celebration, with similar themed instruction at middle and high schools across CCSD.
The focus on coding is bound to benefit all students, no matter their specific academic interests. That's because the STEM- and STEAM-themed activities can offer a springboard into the technological language of the future for students of all backgrounds and interests, and represent a valuable fusion of scientific and creative realms of thinking and learning. Artists, scientists and performers can all benefit from knowing how the technological language of their everyday world works.
"We want the intermediate students to be able to continue to learn from these projects, and get the younger kids involved as well," McKenzie said, pointing to the partner structure of the day's activities. "The first year was just trying to get students through it … Now it's really getting kids to help other kids, and even show the staff new things as we all move toward meeting the district's innovation goals."
Spencer Kone, an 11-year-old fifth-grader at Antelope Ridge, was one of the students who brought an established level of expertise to this year's Hour of Code activities. He had already worked with the Makey Makey STEM tools at home, and he was more than willing to help other students discover how to make a working, electronic keyboard out of a set of simple tools.
He said the school's yearly Hour of Code celebration serves as a way to integrate what he's learning on his own with new information and unexplored challenges.
"The Hour of Code challenges you," he said. "In a good way."