West Hartford Public Schools Summer Connections Program held at Charter Oak International Academy in July offered students something new this year. For the first time, all third and fourth graders learned about computer science and engaged in programming play along with their core subjects. Students were introduced to the key concepts of sequence (order matters), selection (conditional statements) and iteration (looping) using a tool called Splats. These programmable square disks can light up, create music, and respond to each other. Splats are also designed for students to jump and dance as they create and play games based on their programming ideas. Students program their “Splats” using a drag and drop coding language called Blockly.
“Yay - Ms. Goltzman is here!” On Wednesday, July 21, I was lucky enough to follow Lindsay Goltzman around Charter Oak International Academy as she moved her cart filled with “Splats” into each third and fourth grade classroom. Ms. Goltzman planned each lesson with the idea of helping students learn computer science concepts in an engaging way through games, playing music, or creating art. As I watched, Ms. Goltzman began with quick directions, students gathered their Splats, and then proceeded to code their devices to create a song. Classroom teachers and assistants circled the room while students worked to create their visions.
That Wednesday, I also had the chance to talk with students in Ms. Nora Brown’s classroom. Mary was happy to have me sit next to her as she was working on creating a song with lights on her device. She told me that Splats were “fun to learn” and that she felt proud that “she could do the whole coding project.” Ms. Brown, who just finished a lesson on multiplication in her class, appreciated that students could see multiplication in the coding projects they were creating. For example, If two notes are repeated three times, then 2x3 or six notes are played in total.
Students offered the following advice about Splats to anyone learning with them this school year:
“The drums are awesome.”
“If you look at what your coding does, you will find your mistake.”
“Think about it before you code.”
“If you can imagine it, you can make it.”
Splats will be used this upcoming school year to give teachers and students an opportunity to play with computer science during the 2021-22 school year. In August 2021, they will be featured in West Hartford’s first Computer Science Summer Camp for teachers. Splats are just one tool of many that teachers and students can use to integrate computer science in their learning. West Hartford Public Schools will continue to provide other integration ideas like this one as we work toward a district goal of CS for all students. For more information or to share your ideas, questions, or thoughts, navigate to our curriculum website (whps.org/curriculum-instruction-and-assessment/computer-science). You can also contact me directly: Jackie Corricelli, Computer Science Curriculum Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.