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The Balladeers channeled Mulan, Gloria Gaynor, and Beyoncé as they entertained Middle and Upper School students at their annual morning assembly.

Coding Kindergartners
adawson
Mrs. Jill Driscoll illustrates the app Kodable. . . 

Don't expect Pingry Kindergartners to scratch their heads if you utter the words "algorithm" and "sequence." They are as common to their budding vocabularies as "mac 'n cheese" and "recess." Why? For the last several years, they have joined their fellow Lower Schoolers—and Middle and Upper Schoolers, for that matter—in participating in the annual and nationally recognized Hour of Code, a one-hour introduction to computer science, which takes place in early December. Earlier in the school year, the children worked with Blue-Bots—a programmable toy robot—but for most of Pingry's 31 Kindergartners, Hour of Code serves as their first real introduction to computer coding. Given their fluency with Chromebooks and iPads, they are quick to grasp the fundamentals.

"You couldn't pick up an iPad and play a game without a programmer behind it," Educational Technology Specialist Jill Driscoll explains to the children. "The programmer creates commands to make the game work, and every command has to appear in a certain sequence, or order. The sequences creates what's called an algorithm. If these are not put in the right order, the game won't work properly."

. . . and then the coding Kindergartners are off!

Translating these concepts into more colloquial language, she uses the example of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with all the requisite fixings spread across a desk. Mrs. Driscoll—aka, "the computer"—reacts to commands given by Lower School Systems Administrator Colleen Collins, aka, "the programmer." Asked by Ms. Collins how to make a PB&J, the children suggest a variety of commands, and Mrs. Driscoll responds to each of them: unpack the bread, put it on a plate, open the jar of peanut butter, get out a knife, put the knife in the jar, spread the peanut butter, put the knife down, close the jar, open the jelly, and so on.

"See how much code it takes to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?" exclaims Mrs. Driscoll. "You would have to write 100 lines of code before you even get to eat! So, who do you think is more intelligent? The computer or the programmer?" she asks.  

"The programmer!," shouts a boy.

After the introductory tutorial, the children are released to their own iPads, where they get to assume the role of programmer. Working on an app called Kodable, they have to apply the correct arrow commands (up, down, left, or right) to direct a "fuzzy" through a series of mazes. Within 15 minutes, many of the children have blazed through all the exercises and are on to the next level, Asteroidia!

Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, adawson@pingry.org