Game On! Coding Class Empowers Young Minds
By Erin Pant
This fall, Saint Peter’s technology teacher, Mr. Stephen Szot, offered a new after-school video game coding class for students in grades 3 to 5. The eight-week class introduced fundamental coding concepts through the online block coding environment Make Code Arcade.
Szot has previously taught a more advanced coding class to middle school students and wanted to offer younger students the opportunity for a similar engaging, creative, and innovative learning experience.
“The only prerequisite was a love of learning something new, interest in video games and of course a desire to create their own games,” said Szot.
Over the course of the class, nineteen students created digital games that could be played on personal handheld gaming devices that they took home with them at the completion of the class.
Along the way, the students were introduced to computer programming topics including variables, loops, conditional statements, and functions, and the basics of game design including sprites (objects on the screen you can interact with), game conditions (win and loss criteria), and navigating sprites along an X Y coordinate system.
“My favorite part of the video game coding class was coding lots of games that were really fun, like Space Invaders and Baby Dinos,” said third grader Ella Czyz.
After creating a game, the students were challenged to consider how each game could be enhanced to make them more or less complex, or to improve on the sound, graphics, and overall fun of the experience.
“The interaction, energy, and creativity of the students impacted me the most during this class,” said Szot.
While the original lesson plan aimed to complete three games during the class, the students were so eager to learn they were able to accomplish creating five games.
“I enjoyed coding a lot of different games. The class made me want to continue learning to code” said fifth grader Alexander Czyz.
“I was surprised at the custom soundtracks, unique colorful character designs, and code modifications they created. Not to mention debugging to identify and correct coding and structural errors that were introduced. After this class, I hope that the students continue to learn, create, and expand their interest in coding while at home,” said Szot.
Based on the positive feedback, energy, and enthusiasm from students Szot hopes to offer this class again in the future.
Green Activities Going Strong at Saint Peter’s
By Jane Bornhorst
Members of the Saint Peter’s School Environmental Club and parent volunteers are working to encourage the school community to use environmentally friendly practices and keep our world clean.
To reduce the school’s carbon footprint, Saint Peter’s held “Walk N’ Roll Week” from November 6-10. Students, faculty, and staff were encouraged to find creative ways to get to and from school, whether it be biking, walking, or carpooling to save car miles and excess emissions. This student-driven effort was led by parent volunteer Julie Zadecky.
“We hope the experience of walking or riding a bike to school will provide an opportunity for the students (and maybe their parents too) to enjoy some physical activity and fresh air before starting their day and have a nice wind down after school too. We'll be collecting information from families who participate to tally up how many miles we've saved and hope that the students will enjoy it enough to continue alternative commuting beyond this week,” Zadecky says.
Under the direction of parent volunteer Margaret Giron, the club is also working to create a rain garden, which utilizes rainfall to help plants grow and reduce soil and mulch runoff on the school grounds. The club measured roof runoff from the school downspout to help determine how big to make the rain garden.
Students in Mr. Tremblay’s math classes used rain garden calculation tables provided by Montgomery County to calculate the drain rate, and fourth grade math classes calculated how much mulch volume was needed for the space. The environmental club selected plants, and Mrs. Caldeira’s seventh-grade science class did a perc test, which analyzes the drainage capability of raw land for future development.
Pope Francis in his “Laudato Si’” encyclical said climate change should be taken seriously, and that Catholics and everyone should do all they can to protect the Earth and environment. In late November, a speaker from the Office of Social Concerns will speak to Saint Peter’s students about fulfilling this Catholic obligation.
“It's so much fun to see the excitement and enthusiasm that the kids have for planning and executing eco-friendly projects, not to mention the smiles on their faces at the completion of a successful project!" said Giron.
Saint Peter's families can find more information and get involved with The Green Team by visiting The Key.
Hall of saints
by Dora J Gomes
Catholics around the world celebrate All Saints Day on November 1, remembering the work and lives of the saints, and praying to them for their intercession.
Each year, the fourth graders of Saint Peter’s School celebrate All Saints Day by creating a Hall of Saints. Students appear as a saint of their choice and prepare presentations for their fellow schoolmates and family, about the lives of their chosen saint for this event.
“I am Saint Anthony, who was the one to hold baby Jesus and who could find lost things”, said, Anthony whose birthday is on the day of St. Anthony’s Feast. While Jack chose Saint John the Baptist, who “prepared the way for Jesus”.
Sahana, choose Joan of Arc for her bravery and was surprised to learn that she was trialed for witchcraft. Lena chose Saint Kateri because she loved the environment and the poor. While Maryline, who loves music, chose Saint Cecilia as she is the patron saint of music and was a martyr.
Thaddeus and Camilla both chose Padre Pio, expressing the same enthusiasm to learn that Padre Pio could be in two places at the same time.
There were Mary the Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Michael the Archangel, Mother Teresa, Saint Lucy, Saint Patrick, and many more.
The participants expressed it was fun creating costumes in the image of their saint and doing research that all led to the All Saints Day celebration, where they presented themselves to visitors in the Hall of Saints. This event is a great way to learn about the lives of the Saints that leads in strengthening the Catholic faith.