Minecraft and Dash the Robot Teach Dows Lane Students How to Code

Minecraft and Dash the Robot Teach Dows Lane Students How to Code

Joining millions of students from around the world, kindergarten through third-grade students at Dows Lane Elementary School are participating in a variety of coding and computer programming activities for an Hour of Code from Dec. 4-10. The event, which is a popular feature of Computer Science Education Week, serves as an introduction to coding and nurtures students’ creativity and problem-solving skills.

Third-graders in Gwenn Carney’s Project Lead the Way classes used Minecraft, a popular video game about placing blocks in a 3-D generated world, to learn about block-style code writing. Throughout the lessons, the students – who were given their own iPad and headphones – gave commands to the main characters in the Minecraft Hour of Code workspace.

“Technology is ever-changing by the minute,” said Carney, who has been a technology teacher for 26 years. “As technology expands, so does our need to run the technology, and there’s a shortage of students going to college for engineering and technology-related fields. We’re hoping to encourage students to learn about the new technology that’s coming our way.”

Meanwhile, kindergartners, first- and second-graders interacted with Wonder Workshop’s Dash, a programmable robot that brings coding to life.  

“Our younger students are getting to know Dash by learning how to make the robot move and by exploring the robot’s lights, sounds, sensors and movements,” said library media specialist Kate Lalier, who led the activities. “The older students are learning programming through the drag-and-drop Blockly app. Working in small groups, we’re breaking problems into a series of sequential steps and working together to solve a variety of challenges.”

Lalier added that programming teaches students how to solve problems, understand a goal and develop a solution.

“Dash robots make it fun to learn programming with a suite of apps that utilize block-based programming at a variety of skill levels,” she said. “The apps are designed to build students’ programming skills step by step, walking users through performing various tasks.”

Dows Lane has incorporated coding and computer programming into its science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum, and it continues to be an ongoing initiative throughout the District.

“It's never too early to bring computer science and coding to our K-3 students,” Principal Deb Mariniello said. “We are so proud of the work of Ms. Lalier and Ms. Carney. We hope these Hour of Code experiences spark excitement, engagement and inquiry.”