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.