Richmond Consolidated School: Students learn to speak in code


Photo Gallery: Computer coding classes at Richmond Consolidated

RICHMOND -- At Richmond Consolidated School, students are learning a logical language that allows them to communicate with anything, from lines to color spectrums to animated zombies.

As part of a measure to add value to the school and to expand technology curriculum, a computer coding instruction is being piloted this year as a full class for grades 6 through 8, and is also being integrated into fourth- and fifth-grade technology class time.

Dan Sadlowski is the first-year teacher who has organized and is leading the program.

'I'm learning too,' said Sadlowski, who previously worked in the health care and fitness fields. 'The first thing to do is try it. Then, the more you do it, the more you know.'

At its essence, coding is a language composed of symbols and numerics written in a sequence that a computer interprets as a direction. Multiple lines of code can be written and arranged to create video games, word processing programs and more.

Over the summer, with support from Principal Monica Zanin, Sadlowski began putting together a curriculum based on two national free onlinebased initiatives: and the computer coding module of Khan Academy.

The latter provides a comprehensive step-by-step, self-paced guide to coding with practice activities and reference materials. features a promotional video with power- packed celebrity endorsements, from the likes of Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg to pop star Shakira to U.S. President Barack Obama. One segment of the video quotes the late Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs as saying, 'Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer...because it teaches you how to think.'

Sixth-graders Chris Adams, Julian Hashim and Noah Hoffman recently sat in Sadlowski's class, sequencing code to give a cartoon zombie character directions through a maze.

Adams also demonstrated the following line of code: rect(80, 70, 60, 240). Ultimately, it made the computer draw a rectangle on the screen; the first two coordinates representing the lengths of lines on the x and y axises, the width and length of the shape, respectively.

Hoffman says learning to code was 'somewhat hard at first,' but a welcome change to the previous curriculum of learning to type and use software.

'This is more like real computer programming. It's more interesting,' he said.

Fourth-grade classmates Anna Rawson and Caroline Palmer said now that they've been exposed to coding, they will never look at something like a video game - which can require millions or billions of lines of code to run - in quite the same way.

'It's fun to be able to know how a computer runs,' said Rawson.

Palmer said the coding skills she's learning now could help her learn how to do something like create her own app in the future.

In class, Sadlowski talks to students about various careers coding skills can be used in.

'With the Common Core curriculum we're now using... we have to create better thinkers and problem-solvers. What an amazing way to [address] that than with coding,' said Zanin. 'Not only does it keep them thinking, but it gives them a different way to think of things too.'


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