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Creekview coders tell computers how to act

Dylan Stead is a model of concentration as he plans and codes the path an Angry Bird must take.
Kimberley Lloyd points to a line of code and offers a suggestion to Jerra O'Neil

Sun Advocate associate editor

It sure is quiet in Mrs. Hansen's computer class. You can hear a few clicks from keyboards and mice, and every now and then one of the fifth graders will lean over and whisper advice to a neighbor.

The youngsters at Creekview Elementary in Price are learning computer code and education is sneaking up on them. That's because the lessons - which you can find at - are all cleverly disguised as simple video games.

However, instead of using a mouse or a controller to move a bird or a zombie to a target, the programmer has to plot the course with code. That code is built by stringing simple commands in a logical sequence.

The simplest might look something like: Move Forward, Move Forward, Turn Left, Move Forward.

New commands are explained by narrators on a video and the pathways get more complex as lessons progress. "Repeat Five Times: Move Forward, Turn Left, Move Forward, Turn Right." The programmers also have to use as few commands as possible to clobber a bad piggie or get the zombie to his sunflower.

It is called the Hour of Code. "But there's something called Beyond the Hour that lets them do 20 or 30 hours at home if they want," says Alisha Hansen, their teacher. "They choose their own passwords so they can log on."

Principal John Thomas says the training fits into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum.

"The purpose is to expose them to what is out there," he explains, speaking of early education in career opportunities.

The introduction a student gets when logging on to the site includes comments from people who have made careers out of applying computer technology. Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Facebook entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg (both billionaires) are two of those who say they've been happy to have learned how to write code.

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