01000011010011110100010001000101 ACS students offered a new language: coding

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Almaden Country School is an independent private school located in the heart of Silicon Valley that recently announced that coding will be expanded; beyond an elective, coding will now be integrated into every core subject such as history, language arts, math, science, and physical education, as a way for students to demonstrate their learning in these subjects

When the school bell rang at Almaden Country School on a sunny September morning, there was a new language being taught: coding. This independent private school, in the heart of Silicon Valley, understands the importance of preparing students for a future filled with technology.

"I'm proud that ACS students — from pre-kindergarten to 8th grade — will build their programming skills and apply this learning in their core subjects. Coding at ACS — integrated into math, science, language arts, and social studies — won't just be an activity in computer class or in our after-school programs," said Dr. Olaf Jorgenson, head of school. "Our vision is that students will use coding as a way to design and solve challenges but it also fits in with our belief that learning should be fun!"

The goal isn't to create an army of engineers but rather help students build skills in problem solving, logic, part-to-whole reasoning, persistence, collaboration, and more.

"Computer programming teaches a way of thinking," said Mary Beth Gay, director of technology, and one of the drivers behind this program. "Since we have students with varying degrees of interest in math and science, programming gives us an additional way to teach these skills by appealing to different areas of strength."

Last year the school participated in the Hour of Code, a one-hour introduction designed to demystify computer science and show that anybody can learn the basics of computer programming. This international program is run by Code.org and was very successful at ACS last year; it was the final catalyst to launch the school's cutting-edge coding initiative in 2015.

Add to that the enthusiasm from the school community — students and parents alike — and the school decided to go for it.

So this year, they will launch coding from 4-year-olds who will start with sequencing up to 8th grade students who will utilize a 3-D printer to make their creations come to life.

They will use Tynker, a self-guided, safe and easy way to successfully teach kids how to code as they create games and animated projects.

"Coding is so much fun," raved Julia LaPierre, a fifth grade student who used code to make "Anna," a character from the movie Frozen, move around on her screen.

According to Tynker, kids relish the challenge to become “creators” – be active participants instead of passive consumers. In addition, the computational thinking skills that underlie coding will be required for future knowledge workers to continuously adapt to our increasingly data-filled world.

“We’re bickering all over the place in this country about what should and shouldn’t be taught in school,” Brandon Busteed, executive director of education and workforce development at Gallup, tells WIRED [in the article "Huh? Schools Think Kids Don't Want to Learn Computer Science."] “But what was surprising and clear from [Searching for Computer Science: A Google-Gallup Research Report] was that Americans very clearly want coding in the classroom.”

And that's just what ACS plans to do by launching this coding initiative and by offering after-school robotic clubs, Girls Who Code, Makers Elective, an App Fair and the Engineering and Design Fair.

The future looks bright, filled with technology and bursting with possibilities for students at ACS.

"Coding is fun and anything is possible — from a complex game to a simple piece of art," said Christopher McMurray, fifth grade student. "Just do what your mind desires and you can make the grandest of creations!"


Almaden Country School is a nonsectarian south San Jose independent school that offers programs for students from 4 years of age through 8th grade. This highly regarded school, which has nearly 400 students, believes that each child has unique capabilities and talents. In its 34th year of discovering the gifts in every child, ACS offers a Character & Competence program for developing strong, ethical leaders; small class sizes; a broad and challenging curriculum; and passionate teachers who share a genuine love of children.

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Cathy Shin
since: 07/2015
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