Monday, December 29, 2014

Our Hour of Code

Memorial School joined millions of students around the world to participate in the Hour of Code this December. The organizers of the event,, describe it this way: "The Hour of Code is a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics." To read more, here's a previous blog post with resources for young coders.

We used the fabulous free iPad app, ScratchJr. I can tell you I have never seen every single child in a class so engaged and excited! 

We began by having the students follow a code I had written. I created signs using the coordinating symbols or blocks from ScratchJr. I explained what each block meant and then everyone followed the code as I showed each sign. 

Here are our Blake Middle School friends using the signs and following the code!
(Thank you Diane Horvath for sharing your Vine ;-)

Then we showed ScratchJr on the big screen. It took a couple of viewings, but many of our young students made the connection that the alien walking across the moon on the screen was doing exactly the same things they had done following my code (walking forward, making a pop sound, jumping up, walking forward again and then stopping). When we minimized the moon scene, they were all able to see the code behind the full-screen scene: 

There's also a grid that can be added over the "scene" so students can determine how many "steps" their character needs to move forward, backward, up, down, around, etc. to accomplish their coding plan. This is where the math component comes in.

We then passed out an iPad to each student. I modeled how to use ScratchJr and everyone followed along on their own iPads.

And now for some serious STEM and STEAM . . . Students were more than ready to get started and boy oh boy, did they have a great time!

A student showing our principal, Dr. Bilsborough, how to code! 
Wheelock School Librarian, Bethany Robertson,  helped out on two afternoons

 Tania Manuel, our school's Tech Assistant, was a HUGE help for our HOC

Medfield High School Tech Integration Specialist, Neal Sonnenberg, did four Hours of Code with us!

Blake Middle School Principal, Nat Vaughn, was instrumental in the HOC collaboration between our two schools.

Memorial School Library Assistant, Dorothy Redding, and Blake Principal Nat Vaughn were so helpful!

Blake Middle School Tech Integration Specialist spent two afternoons with us and introduced this app to the Math Department at her school!

Blake Middle School teacher and Community Service  Club Coordinator, Michael Gow, spent two afternoons with us.  He is now a ScratchJr  expert!

Blake middle schoolers loved learning coding alongside 1st graders ;-)

We just loved having Blake Middle Schoolers helping us out!

There are so many thanks to go around. First to Memorial School Principal, Dr. Missy Bilsborough, for her support in allowing me to bring HOC to our school. Next to my amazing colleagues: all the Grade 1 teachers for their trust, their time and their willingness to try something new; Dorothy Redding, Tania Manuel, Kathleen Flaherty, Bethany Robertson and Neal Sonnenberg for their necessary help; and finally our Blake Middle School friends, Nat Vaughn, Diane Horvath, Michael Gow and the Community Service Club members. Our Hour of Code would definitely not have been the same without all of your help.
                                                                           Image from

I cannot wait to see where we go from here…!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Weekend of Work and Wonder (and Some Fun Too!)

I spent this weekend in my very favorite get away spot -in a house on a lake in Maine. We are in the middle of such amazing nature. The view outside the windows is always changing. The colors of the sky, the lake and the mountains can change by the minute. The various living creatures we are fortunate to watch continue to astound. The weather (I especially love seeing a storm come right to us from across the lake) constantly changes. And of course the brilliant sunsets - no two are ever the same. We have witnessed awesomeness over the years.

In addition to walking the dogs, reading and watching a bad movie, I tried to get some work done. I'm fine tuning my lesson for The Hour of Code.  This week and next we will be joining millions of students all around the world to learn about programming. I will be introducing all of our grade 1 classes to ScratchJr (more of this in a future post). I'm planning a Twitter session for our elementary professional development afternoon this Wednesday and I'm making the final choices for our Mock Caldecott unit. This is the kind of work I love!

But, there were distractions!  I so enjoyed watching the Hooded Mergansers playing and fishing in the water.  This is the only time of year I have seen them here.

Male and Female Hooded Mergansers
Photo credit:

And, this morning when I looked outside, I saw something I haven't seen here before: the moon setting across the lake:

Yes, it has been a weekend of work and wonder and it's still early Sunday morning. I wonder what today will bring?