Forest Oaks kids take on coding

Forest Oaks teacher Adrienne McKinney guides a student during a Jan. 23 meeting of the Forest Oaks Elementary School coding club. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

Forest Oaks teacher Adrienne McKinney guides a student during a Jan. 23 meeting of the Forest Oaks Elementary School coding club. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

CHELSEA—Although only 7:15 a.m. on a Friday, students in the Forest Oaks Elementary School coding club excitedly sat behind computers, ready to program their custom made character to move through a maze.

With the guidance of Forest Oaks teacher Adrienne McKinney, the third, fourth and fifth grade students have built their own video games complete with custom scoring systems, characters, mazes and changing backgrounds.

“I have been really amazed with what they’re coming up with and what they’re creating,” McKinney said. “Some of the students have taken it and really taken off.”

New this year, the club, called “Hello, World!,” seeks to introduce students to the fast-growing world of computer technology, programming and coding. The children learn by starting with simple tasks, then building upon those skills to create a more complex video game.

The club meets on Thursday and Friday mornings. Lessons are guided by a curriculum developed by Harvard University, although McKinney said she also researches and creates extra projects for the students.

During the Jan. 23 session, the students were working to incorporate scoring into their video games.

“When the character touches an object, they can either gain points or lose points,” McKinney explained. “They have to think about how they can make their character move.”

Not only does the club teach children how to code, it also develops valuable skills such as logical reasoning, problem solving, creativity and collaborative thinking.

“They interact with each other instead of solely relying on me,” McKinney said, adding she encourages students to think creatively. “I really want them to think out-of-the-box.”

The student response to the club has been strong, and McKinney said she hopes to see the club continue and grow next year.

“It’s definitely something that gets the students excited about coming to school and learning,” McKinney said. “It’s a great way to start the day, I really enjoy working with the students.”