RUSMP helps HISD students with computer coding

By Anne Papakonstantinou

Students at the Rice School/La Escuela Rice joined millions of other students across the world in a global movement known as the Hour of Code, which teaches students to create technology and not just use it. Students had to complete at least an hour of coding as part of Computer Science Education Week, which was Dec. 4-10.

Three students at the Rice School sittin at computers

Students at the Rice School/La Escuela Rice work on computer coding during Computer Science Education Week.

The Houston Independent School District (HISD) kicked off its Hour of Code events Dec. 4 at the Rice School, where the entire student body participated in coding challenges. Students used programming tools to create computer games, applications and web content. Events such as Hour of Code are designed to help students develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that make them better thinkers and learners and prepare them for careers in high-wage, high-demand, 21st-century jobs.

The Hour of Code activities began with computer scientists from Bluware Inc., a company founded by Rice alum Richard Jones ’76. The computer scientists asked kindergarten students to identify simple algorithms and then led students in a coding activity using an introductory programming language called ScratchJr to move a car down a road.

As the morning progressed, kindergartners programmed robots called Bee-Bots to move on a variety of grids to reach certain destinations — an interdisciplinary challenge that integrated mathematics, language arts and science. Fourth-graders discussed coding languages, created an algorithm for sharpening a pencil and guided a hungry caterpillar to food. Fifth-graders wrote code using tablets and computers for activities on the Hour of Code website. Seventh-graders used a computer programming language called Scratch to create music and make an animated cat fly.

The Rice University School Mathematics Project (RUSMP) leadership team collaborated with Toni-Hill Kennedy, assistant principal and STEM/Vanguard coordinator, and Liliana Edwards, kindergarten teacher, to design a plan to bring the Hour of Code to life at the Rice School and to sustain the excitement throughout the year. James Wigfall, HISD’s curriculum manager of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), participated in the event.

“RUSMP’s collaboration with the Rice School to support dynamic learning environments such as the one provided through the Hour of Code activities is part of RUSMP’s commitment to the STEM disciplines as a regional partner,” said Richard Parr, RUSMP executive director.

“The Rice School was thrilled to take part in the international Hour of Code,” Principal Kimberly Hobbs said. “This event exemplifies the engagement with STEM that we want for all students every day in our role as a STEM magnet school. Seeing students’ excitement as they explored these activities leaves me confident that our students will be our future STEM leaders.”

Extending Rice’s reach and impact and helping shape the future of Houston are goals of Rice’s Vision for the Second Century, part two.

–Anne Papakonstantinou is director of the Rice University School Mathematics Project and a member of the Rice School Shared Decision-Making Committee.



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