For Washington Elementary sixth-grade student Jack Guthrie, one of his favorite parts of the school day is when he gets to dabble in coding.
The 11-year-old Centralia student has worked on websites and knows at least two coding programs. On Friday, he was busy working with his class at the school during an Hour of Code event, an international effort that teaches students how to code at their own individual pace. The program has a goal to broaden participation in the field of computer science.
Guthrie’s dad is a programmer. His interest in computers first developed at around the age of 7, he said. He was watching his dad write code when he asked if he was writing a story.
“He was making software instead,” Guthrie said.
He later received a book that detailed programming language, so he began to expand his skills.
Sixth-grade teacher Daniel Garry started the Hour of Code program five years ago. At that time, it was a summer school program focused on coding, but now he has introduced into his classroom. Other teachers have followed in his path.
Once students complete their core curriculum requirements through the district’s iReady program, Garry said they are able to work on their coding skills as an added bonus.
The program gets kids interested in engineering at an early age.
“It’s a fun way to get them involved,” Garry said. “I think the sooner that you not only develop the skills, but the interest in something like that, you are more apt to take classes in high school that are STEM driven ... One of the big challenges is that kids at this age get frustrated, but once they develop that skill, they can figure out, ‘Wow, I can fail and then learn from my failures and do the next thing.’”
That’s an important goal for the students to learn, he said. High school students involved in the robotics program help answer the younger kids’ questions, which ends up benefiting both parties. It teaches the older students communication skills and how to be personable.
“It’s a skill they have to have to be successful in any field,” Garry said, adding it encourages teamwork and sharing ideas.
For senior Isaiah Johnson, 17, he said the skills he’s learning by helping the students will further his career goal of becoming a computer applications engineer. It’s allowed him to increase communication skills and has taught him different ways to explain things.
“As a computer applications engineer you have to talk with the employer or whoever you are making the program for and figure out what they want,” he said. “This helps.”
Aaron Mecham, 18, said he spends his time helping the kids because he wants to see them succeed. Mecham, who is a senior at Centralia High School and a part-time Running Start student, knows five different computer languages. He said the smiles on the childrens’ faces once they understand a concept is well worth the time.
“The industry is growing almost exponentially and they don’t have enough people to fill the jobs,” Mecham said. “This helps them develop skills and teaches the kids a 100 ways to solve problems.”
Even if the students decide not to pursue a computer science career, he said they learn valuable lessons and the program helps them think critically when faced with a problem.
Garry, who has been a teacher at Washington Elementary for 18 years, said that 65 percent of the jobs his students will later get haven’t even been created yet. With technology developing and expanding at such a high rate, teaching the students 21st century skills is critical. He also said there is a lack of women involved in coding and software engineering. By instilling a passion into his students, he hopes that gap will be reduced in the future.
Sixth-grader Guthrie said his teacher helps his students by teaching creative ideas.
“Mr. Garry is amazing,” he said. “He keeps it interesting and likes doing science.”
The soon-to-be 12-year-old said coding is a fun hobby, but he’d prefer to be an archeologist when he grows up.
“Computers are interesting, but I like digging and stuff,” Guthrie said.