Students, Teachers Ready to Enter Coding Lab Era

by Ronnie Zamora/LFCISD

STEM education has arrived at nine Los Fresnos CISD elementary schools with the first coding lab classes scheduled to start Monday.

Last spring, the district made the commitment to implement STEM education into the elementary schools with the introduction of coding labs. The initiative will develop skills o elementary school students to help them reach a higher level of proficiency in computer science.

Full-time coding lab teachers have been hired and eager to start. All students from kindergarten through fifth grade will attend a minimum of 45 minutes a week.

“The nine teachers and I are on this new adventure together from square one,” said Holly Maldonado, Science Strategist for grades K to 6. “We recognized the importance of coding. We’ve been picking and choosing the best from all of the programs and devices. The coding labs may help those students who had not been reaching their true potential with something new and exciting.”

Students could find their own little niche in a coding lab that they might not find in a typical classroom.

“We’re developing something that works for us in Los Fresnos, realizing that our students will help us shape the curriculum,” Maldonado said. “Students may be 20 steps ahead of where we realize them to be just because they are at a different thinking level than we are in regard to technology.”

The nine new Coding Lab teachers are looking forward to a new era.

“It’s something new for the district, and it’s exciting that we’re piloting this,” said Lilian Ramos of Los Fresnos Elementary. “The kids and their parents are going to excited. It’s a new program, and it’s going to help them in the future.”

Toys and gadgets that will attract the attention of children will help get students interested in coding. Each lab will have an assortment of robotic toys such as B-Bots – bright yellow rechargeable robots that look like robotic caterpillars. Students can learn how to program them to move.

“I’m excited about students playing with the new toys, especially the B-Bot,” said Elvira Martinez of Olmito Elementary. “It’s a toy but also a learning tool where students can learn in various ways.”

The new teachers know that they will have to be creative to motivate the students to learn about coding.

Kendra Arevalo of Dora Romero Elementary was a former writing teacher at Los Cuates Middle School. “I’ve always been teaching to be creative way. This is gearing them to be more creative with actions rather than words.”

Students at most schools only practiced coding during the Hour of Code week held across the country each December.  Hour of Code is a one-hour introduction to computer science.

“Hour of Code was one week where the students were learning code for one hour,” said Carmen Loredo of Rancho Verde Elementary. “The students looked forward to Hour of Code. Now we’re going to implement it year-round.”

The excitement that a new program brings will extend to the teachers who have undergone training as well.

“This was my opportunity to try something different,” said Graciela San Roman of Lopez-Riggins Elementary. “We would make a lot of QR codes in my old classroom, and we would make presentations and upload them for the parents. I would see their excitement and how it was different, and they really wanted to do that activity. For a second grader to show his parents what he did in class, and what they would do in class motivated me.”

The expanded coding to a year-round program will help get students interested in computer science earlier in their education. The kindergarten students that will be taught this year will part of the Class of 2031.

“We need to move the students into the next generation with innovative ideas and creative thinking,” said Gloria Lopez of Laureles Elementary. “It will shape the students to be the lifelong learners that Los Fresnos CISD is gearing them towards.”

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