Coding for Kids: NLA Students Dive into Technology

With the ever-changing technological advancements of the 21st century, it is becoming increasingly important for students to become prepared as early as possible to take on modern-day jobs. 

“Our students will certainly use computers in their job, and I envision that need only increasing as technology progresses,” said Becky Wallerick, academic dean. Implementing coding into the curriculum at New Life Academy has been something that Wallerick is especially passionate about. She has researched the importance of coding applications in the past few years and believes it is vital for kids to understand computers and how to code for themselves. Coding stations, as well as other Makerspace sites such as a 3D printer station and video production station, were implemented at NLA at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, as a result of funds raised by the NLA Auction and Annual Giving.

Wallerick brought in New Life Academy parent, Dean Hager, the CEO of JAMF Software to talk to teachers about why it is so important that coding be taught in schools. Many teachers were inspired, excited, and willing to help this essential tool become a part of the education process at New Life Academy.

The way that coding is being taught looks different for each age group. Melissa Kalinoff works with students of all grades. For the kindergarten through second grade age group, Kalinoff uses a program called Kodeable, which guides kids through the basics in a fun way.

They are learning simple commands like up, down, left and right, Kalinoff said.

“Teaching coding is like teaching another language. The earlier they start to learn it, the easier they pick it up,” Kalinoff explained.

The third through fifth graders are learning about sequences and procedures and even get to work with robots. Kalinoff uses off-tech, hands-on examples to help the students learn to be precise in their commands. The best part is that students use a game-like simulation to help them learn, which in turn gives them the opportunity to move at their own pace. Kalinoff said she has seen students work together to accomplish levels and even turn to online sources to research what they should do to help them advance in the program.

“To see how excited they get when they understand it is great,” she said.

Kathy Lutes teaches the middle school and even implements coding in a more in-depth manner with students in the gifted program. Lutes’ aim is to introduce them to JavaScript, Pearls, Scratch, and other computer languages because there is no job or project in the world that does not use computer programming in some shape or form. The kids are loving it, and Lutes said that she has had students say they went home to show their family how to do it.

High school students are required to take a technology course before graduation, and Brandon Mellet implements coding into one of his units. Wallerick says that her goal is to offer an elective AP computer course in the near future to give students the option to advance in coding technology.

“The detail that is used in coding is so helpful to kids in all areas,” Wallerick said. Not only do students gain a deeper understanding of the way computers work, but they learn logic, listening skills, and how to pay closer attention to detail.