In a first grade class one day, I asked a few students “Do you like coding?”
They had no idea what I was talking about.
What they did tell me: “I made this bracelet out of rubberbands and beads.”
The current nationwide conversation around STEM focuses very heavily on coding, programming, and engineering. Which is great, if you are interested in those things.
What about our kids who just aren’t interested in coding?
Girls in STEM, Girls Who Code, CSforAll – a few of the many movements and hashtags that are trying to get our kids interested in STEM. Why are they so focused on changing our students’ interests, rather than focusing on their current interests?
And for some reason, the STEM movement has started sending this message that’s it’s somehow a bad thing to be a girly-girl. An entire group of us are being left out of the STEM conversation.
That’s a problem.
I started thinking “How can I take these little creators, and use their current interests to get them into computational thinking, coding, STEM, etc?”
I decided to create an activity for these little learners that focuses on patterns and codes.
Using different colored beads, students could “code their name” using the key, or create their own pattern with a few colors and repeat it over and over.
The intro to this activity was quick – we talked about patterns and secret codes for a few minutes, then they were off on their own!
I loved seeing their creativity in creating their own unique patterns. One friend asked if he could have two patterns on the same necklace. He decided to use a black bead to separate the two patterns.
The students who decided to code their names were excited to take the necklaces home and have their parents “decode” them.
I included a little card that I threaded onto their necklaces that explained the activity, and gave them some “unplugged coding” ideas to try at home.
I loved this activity, and will be doing it again in other kindergarten and first grade classrooms. Taking the students’ current interests – making jewelry – and bringing in some basic computation thinking skills worked well. They started using “coding” language and will have that in their toolbox when “real” coding and programming is presented to them as they get older.