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Coding: An additional language at BCE

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

This story is the second of a two-part story about robotics and coding at Brooklyn Center Elementary STEAM. To read part 1, click here.

Brooklyn Center Elementary STEAM (BCE) English Language (EL) students are just a few benefitting from the campus-wide initiative to include more coding and robotics into the curriculum. Teachers and administration are working hard to integrate STEAM into their classrooms, no matter the subject matter at hand.

Julie Fetch, BCE third grade EL teacher, views computer coding as an additional language that all students must become familiar with, much like the languages of science, social studies, language arts, mathematics, and social language that they are already learning in her class. “I feel that coding is a great skill to learn and can be a great platform for developing students' voices and boosting their self-confidence,” said Fetch. 

The nature of computer coding challenges students to think outside the box of the normal solutions and engage in more critical thinking. Exploratory learning allows for more questioning to happen that can then lead students to thinking more about problem-solving and creating. 

For Fetch, one of the most important aspects of teaching coding in the classroom is seeing students do something that they didn't think they could ever do. Coding requires persistence and troubleshooting, and when students solve their coding problems and can make their project work it is extremely rewarding for both the students and teachers. “I think our scholars' favorite part of coding is tinkering, experimenting, and sharing the things they've learned to do with their classmates,” said Fetch.  

Minnesota non-profit Code Savvy has been an incredible partner to BCE in the journey for coding integration at the campus. Representatives from Code Savvy co-teach coding basics weekly in the classroom, and additionally formed a Spanish coding group that also included the parents so they could learn more about how to use technology and help their children with it. 

Advances in computer coding software have been an additional benefit for EL students because of the improvement in user experience and flexibility. This allows for the possibility of more diverse people with different specialties to take interest in coding, much like Fetch and her students. Distance learning during the 2020-2021 school year also increased the access and the comfort level students had with the technology required for computer coding. 

Because she is a language teacher, Fetch is primarily interested in teaching coding that will help students develop their English skills by creating coding projects with dialogue and creating stories that include content that they learn about in class. 

Fetch believes that coding can be integrated into a number of subjects, and plans to continue to find ways to integrate it into her classroom curriculum this year.