It is my first year being a part of the wonderful collaborative effort that has developed our 8th grade science curriculum.  In 8th grade, students spend one quarter in ecology, chemistry, physics, and computer science. This year, I am teaching the ecology and computer science quarters.  I want to share fun adventures we have had in computer science this quarter.

We started the quarter “dissecting” decommissioned desktop computer towers.  We delicately tore into these devices in search for standard computer hardware like CPU, motherboard, RAM and ROM.  Students learned the function of each part and where it was located in the general layout of a computer. These towers were a little “archaic” so we also ventured into more modern laptops and cell phones.  The pieces get smaller as technology advances, but the general layout and function remains the same.

Our next project was to “build your own computer” for clients with different computing needs—a small business owner, a 5th grade student, a “gamer,” and a grandparent.  This started our Maker Movement. Students thought about the needs of a small business owner versus that of a “gamer” and invested in memory necessary for all the document keeping of a small business or the desired magnitude of video card to process today’s games as rapidly and visually appealing as possible.

Next we reviewed HTML and learned how we can use various commands called tags to create a website.  We are using the Code.org curriculum resources which allows us to walk through a demonstration with students following along on their laptops.  This is where the magic happened. I am co-teaching the class with Jeremy Smith. While he described how to make the background turn a particular color, create a new paragraph with a specific-sized title, and insert pictures and links, I walked around the room and help students who stumbled and needed a little further clarification.  It was neat to see how each student chooses to express themselves.

We assigned students a project using the web lab to create their own website.  They were able to pursue topics of their own interest to apply these tech skills.  Topics ranged from vegetarian cooking, penguins, candle making, Formula 1 racing, and a resource for students auditioning for musicals.

Click to view some of the student projects:  Chloe M. ’23Jake R. ’23Alex J. ’23Camryn H. ’23Quinn S. ’23.

Finally, we taught students how to use JavaScript to create games.  We covered simple background and fill coloring commands, then advanced to drawing shapes with position and size qualities, and finally creating and moving sprites.  While the assignment was to create three sprites and have them move independently and with different inputs (mouse or keys), students expressed themselves with sprites they created or customized, how they move, and their vision of how this might develop into a simple game.  It was fun to see their creativity and sense of humor displayed. No two screens were alike.

The Maker Movement has taken on great enthusiasm, and it is no wonder why.  It feels good to let your creativity flow and make something of your choosing and direction.  Beyond learning to code, students have also learned how to create something from a vision. This skill will be invaluable as they move forward in their lives and careers.

Learn more about Harrisburg Academy on our school website.