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Coding in the classroom: Clarenville teacher awarded Educator’s Innovation grant

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CLARENVILLE- Students at Clarenville’s Riverside Elementary who are learning some unique computer programing skills now have an additional $2,500 for the purchase of computer equipment. 

Teacher Jamie Loveless’s project proposal “Computer Literacy in the Elementary Classroom” was awarded an Educator's Innovation grant from the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (ESDNL).

In the proposal, Loveless detailed the potential that teaching coding to elementary students unlocks.

"Manipulation of previously created code, as well as the creation of new code, will allow for creativity, collaboration, communication, problem-solving, and logical thinking - all desirable attributes of 21st learners and educators," he wrote.

Loveless said he and substitute teacher Chad Spurrell have been building an interest in coding and robotics at Riverside Elementary over the years through hosting after school clubs as well as incorporating coding into more ‘traditional’ subjects such as math and science.

"We try and correspond with our curriculum, whether math or science, because right now there's no official coding course, but the links that can be made to our curriculum are amazing," Loveless explained.

Loveless and Spurrell said they try to incorporate as many different aspects into coding clubs as possible, applying coding to different technologies such as Raspberry Pi computers and Lego robotics. Students can use coding to create a variety of projects, including animated stories, video games, artwork and music.

Loveless said he has been impressed over the years by how quickly students catch onto coding concepts, adding students find the practical, hands-on nature is rewarding

"Kids always like to see a product at the end of the day, something that they've done, that they can take some pride and ownership in, and coding enables that, whether they choose to do some kind of animation or whether it’s Lego robotic,” he said.

“If nothing else it introduces them to something that they probably wouldn't see throughout their school career and gives them another potential career opportunities when its all said and done.”

Spurrell volunteers to help with coding programs even on his days off.

"We try to involve as many different kids as we can from as many different age levels. We try to touch on a bit of everything," he said.

Spurrell said knowledge of coding is beneficial even if students never pursue a career in technology.

"We don't teach music for everyone to become professionals musicians. We don’t teach phys ed for everyone to become professional athletes. And we don’t teach engineering so that everyone will become an engineer, and we don’t teach coding for everyone to become coders. They'll gain a certain set of skills, such as persistence, problem solving, communication, which they can use whatever career choice they make," he explained.

The duo said students are highly interested and involved — to the extreme that one Grade 3 engineering club had to be divided into two separate groups because there were more students attending than the two teachers could properly give the necessary time and attention.

As for coding, Loveless said he feels it is catching on in the education field.

“I think if the funding was there it would be implemented in more schools, and that’s why the grant is great,” he said.

“At the end of the day we get some extra funding to promote what we're trying to accomplish. You take some pride in what you do, but at the end of the day, it's not about what we do here, it's what's gonna benefit the kids."

Loveless said the grant money will be used to purchase items such as laptops, Raspberry Pi's and Lego kits. 

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