Coding cool at St Therese’s Lakemba

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Students at St Therese’s Catholic Primary Lakemba are programming themselves for success through coding.

Students have access to the subject from Kindergarten to Year 6 with organised lessons in the school library, and a Coding Club that allows students to meet in the school library to explore robotics and coding applications at recess and lunch times.

In the upper primary years, students use Bee-Bots, Blu-Bots, Ozobots, Spheros, Lego Mindstorms, and visual programing language Scratch to create games and complete activities that encourage computational thinking. All Year 5 and 6 students attend, and students in Years 1 to 4 who are gifted in Mathematics work in small group sessions.

Kindergarten students learn the principles of coding in an unplugged environment. They use plastic cups and pre-made charts to code a story, learning about directional commands and arrows.

It’s like you’re learning a different language, which is really cool.

– Cindy Nakhle

Teacher librarian Margaret Hayes said the benefits of coding include the development of problem solving skills and the ability to work in groups. Student are also preparing to enter FIRST Lego League challenge at Macquarie University in August.

“It’s those team-building skills that coding really helps,” Mrs Hayes said.

“The students learn computational thinking skills and work collaboratively, all while having fun. They are encouraged to do a lot of tinkering, and there are set activities that they have to work towards as well.

“The Kindergarten students are able to tell you what an algorithm is and that computational thinking is breaking down a problem into a smaller problem step by step.”

Year 6 students Cindy Nakhle and Emileo Santana said coding required concentration and the ability to decipher what codes mean, and had a medium level of difficulty.

“What I like about coding is that you’re in control,” Cindy said. “You’re learning while having fun, which is the best part. It’s like you’re learning a different language, which is really cool.

“One little mistake can ruin the whole thing, so you need to take your time and think.”

Emileo began using Scratch in Year 5 and recently created a game called ‘Bird Life’, which sees the main character escape ghosts and bats to gain points and reach the next level.

“Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks to code a game, but for simple games it takes a day,” he said.

Henry Lu and Dimitri Travlos are preparing for the FIRST Lego robotics in August by building EV3 robots and coding them to dance.

“I like the unpredictability of coding and the endless possibilities of what you can do with the robots,’ Henry said. “The building process is the best part of it.”

The students learn computational thinking skills and work collaboratively.

– Margaret Hayes

Dimitri said the EV3 robots used block coding, while colour played a part in making the Ozobots move.

“With the ozobots you draw lines on paper or any surface and the ozobot will follow the line,” he said.

“My favourite thing is programming the robots because at the end of the program you never know what it can do. Sometimes it won’t move at all.”

Principal Kelley Conlon said the coding activities allowed stduents to investigate, input and problem-solve rather than be spoon-fed information.

“The world needs people who are going to think and problem-solve,” he said.

“The end goal ultimately is for our students to be employable. Coding will be an in-demand skill, so why not give them the opportunity, in a fun way, to get there?”

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