Coding with Kids: Stories from Chester County

When Kimberly Colbert agreed to start a Web Design program at Chester County High School this year, she was ready for the challenge, and so were her students.

“I had to lay down my fears and not worry. It’s a class of problem solving,” said Colbert.

hourofcode2Colbert currently teaches 60 students in three sections of Web Design I. Students learn HTML, CSS and JavaScript, which Colbert describes as the structure, style, and movement of web design. The program, which receives support from the Pathways Southwest Tennessee program, will eventually offer a three-year sequence of courses. In Web Design II, students will learn more advanced skills and complete design work for teachers. The third and final year will be the practicum year, where students will have the opportunity to complete work for actual clients from the community.

Colbert describes the overall goal of the program as preparing students to enter lucrative careers in the computer science industry.

“It is my desire to open the door to an opportunity for a career that has no set salary cap determined for them and that my students really know that merit is valued in our global society,” said Colbert.

hourofcode5Recently, Colbert’s students had the opportunity to be teachers for a day when they welcomed third graders from Cathy Whitehead’s West Chester Elementary class to participate in the Hour of Code together. The Hour of Code is a global movement that encourages everyone to spend one hour practicing basic coding skills.

Each third-grade student was partnered with a high school student enrolled in Colbert’s Web Design program. The students spent their first half hour together practicing coding skills and playing coding games. Then, after the third graders enjoyed lunch and a special ice cream treat courtesy of Chester County High School Principal, Dr. Ricky Catlett, they returned to the lab with a very specific goal in mind – to each create their own Christmas web pages.

hourofcode4Third grade students came prepared with handwritten paragraphs that detailed the “naughty” and “nice” things they had done in the previous year, along with a Christmas wish list.  The high school Web Design students prepared for the event by sketching possible designs for the web pages. Not long after the students began their Hour of Code collaboration, web pages with festive graphics began appearing throughout the lab, with some even including animations.

“If they see they can code, they see they can do anything,” said Whitehead, whose students had already independently practice their coding skills through the hour of code website.

hourofcode3As the third graders left the lab, the room was filled with goodbyes, high fives, and fist bumps from their high school coding partners, and some even lingered behind to put the final touches on their web pages.

“The greatest benefit for my students was simply sharing knowledge that was valued by the younger students,” said Colbert.  “By sharing their knowledge, I believe my coding students were able to see the vast opportunities that await an even younger generation of students.”

Pathways Southwest Tennessee is a workforce development initiative of the TN Department of Education, funded in part through a Perkins IV Reserve grant. You can learn more about the program here.