Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Computer Science for Young Ones

During summer breaks from school, the girls and I like to have theme weeks. We might spend a week on oceans (especially when we go to Cape Cod for vacation), or a week on solar energy, or a week on local history. We'll read some books, play with relevant toys, go on field trips, and make some crafts.

Some of these themes evolve and run for months, such as our Ancient History unit, but one unit has taken on a bigger, better form. The Man of the House is a computer scientist, and I, well, am not. (I once made a web page in college out of HTML, which sounds like I used scrap paper and paste compared to how it's all done today.) Anyway, nearly every electronic thing people have now has a computer in it, and I thought it was about time the girls were exposed to their father's field of work. By the time we were ready to dive into it, though, it was nearing the end of the summer, and we were a little sick of each other.

So we invited some friends and called it Computer Club.

I found this great curriculum called CS Unplugged and had The Man of the House look it over with his technical eye. I figured that I could modify the lessons as needed since some are geared for seventh graders, and I've got a bunch of K-4 students. (A bunch equals 18, by the way.) The first lesson was on binary numbers. The fourth graders picked up binary to decimal conversions right away, but the younger ones needed some help. I used the dot cards that came with the CS Unplugged activities, but I added Lego stacks, too, to show the doubling relationship in binary place value. Cisco made this fun game for kids to practice binary to decimal conversion, and the girls play it on the web or on the iPad. It's called The Binary Game. One time, we made jewelry as an application of binary numbers. The girls  used the ASCII alphabet to encode their initials into a bracelet. Beads of one color were zeros, another color for ones, and each letter had its own strand. Next time, we're playing Battleship to learn about searching algorithms.

I am so excited for these girls. They are little sponges just soaking up this knowledge. They're having fun with it, too. I thought of them today when I saw this video from Code.org.

"You don't have to be a genius to code. Do you have to be a genius to read?"

Well, that does it. I'm going to learn to code, and I'm bringing these 18 girls with me.

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