Can eighth graders teach 3- and 4-year olds computer coding?

The answer might surprise you.

This past December, in celebration of the Global Hour of Code, eighth graders at Stratford School in San Jose taught Stratford School preschoolers in Los Angeles how to write and animate a story using coding skills. As well, eighth graders in San Jose taught Altadena preschoolers about algorithms and coding.

The Hour of Code is an international lesson plan coordinated by Code.org, which takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week in December, and teaches coding skills to students of all ages. It began as a simple, one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to show that anyone can learn the basics and to get people involved field of computer science. It has since become a worldwide celebration computer science, starting with one-hour coding activities and has expanded to all sorts of community efforts.

Since students in Altadena had been learning about farms and plants, they were prepped for the algorithm lesson as they learned all about the growth process of a plant, from seed to sprout.

Through the magic of webcam conferencing, classroom teachers advised as eighth graders taught preschoolers to create a sequence. “They had a seed, then they had to figure out the different steps of getting a seed from a plan, then had to put them in order to learn the process of an algorithm.”

Judy Burbank, head of school at Stratford School’s Altadena campus says the kids loved it.

“The children went home so excited to tell their parents they’d done a lesson with the older children. Now if you ask them what an algorithm is, they can tell you. And now they’re using the concept of algorithm in their other lessons, like their dinosaur unit this January,” says Burbank.

“It was an amazing opportunity for our preschool and pre-K students in Southern California to interact with our eighth graders in northern California,” she says.

Della Dastur, computer science middle school teacher for Stratford’s San Jose campus, worked with her students to help teach 4-year-olds at the Melrose campus how to tell a story using code. The project required drawing, sculpting, coding and a lot of creativity. And her students loved it.

“In computer science class at Stratford, we don’t give homework, but all the kids told me they spent hours trying to perfect their stories to make the experience amazing for the kids,” Dastur says. “That touched me that they spent so much time to make it special for the kids.”

Dastur, a former software engineer, says the Hour of Code was a hit.

“I think it enriched our program further. I could see my students liked interacting with and teaching the younger students. The fact that they were using their programming skills to bring pre-K’s imagination to life inspired them to learn coding and do a good project for these pre-K students.”

Burbank says Stratford Schools hope to go further with coding.

“We want to dive deeper into integrating it into our curriculum. And as we continue to get more students, we want more kids involved in the hour of code.”

The idea behind this is to let kids be creators, rather than just consumers, of technology. During December, nearly six thousand students at Stratford Schools participated in various creative learning activities during the Global Hour of Code.

It’s all about preparing kids by fostering digital literacy.

Burbank says Stratford School’s preschool program integrates coding right away and continues all the way through their middle school program.

“At Stratford, Hour of Code is more than teaching students how to code. It is a time for all students to experience the tremendous power of technology.” says Carrie Lynne Draper, executive director and STEM expert at Readiness Learning Associates, which provides consulting services, professional development and educator training around science, technology, engineering and math for schools across the nation.

“Beginning in preschool, its approach enhances children’s cognitive and social abilities. Students have multiple opportunities to share their discoveries while acquiring knowledge and may occasionally mentor a particularly curious preschooler,” she says.

Students can host their own Hour of Code all year round. The event is driven by several partner organizations including Microsoft, Apple, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and supported by over 400 partners and 200,000 educators worldwide.


For more info, and to start learning coding for free, visit hourofcode.com.