Liggett students learn the right code

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 19, 2017

 University Liggett School sixth-grade student Bella Metry finished building a robot she had been working on using the littleBits droid kit and code kit.

University Liggett School sixth-grade student Bella Metry finished building a robot she had been working on using the littleBits droid kit and code kit.

Photo provided by University Liggett School

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Students who attend University Liggett School are learning a new language — a programming language.

Several of the school’s teachers have added coding to their lesson plans so students can become more knowledgeable and familiar with programming languages such as Java, C++ and Python, which  tell computers what to do.     

Coding is what makes the creation of computer software, apps and websites possible. Browsers, operating systems, phone applications, Facebook and websites are all made with code.

“It is important to have students experience code because it is a language that makes the digital world work,” Liggett Middle School Technology Coordinator Nicholas Provenzano said in an email. “Students gain a better understanding of how technology works and how to problem-solve issues on their own. It also gives students the ability to create amazing projects if they understand the basics of code.”

Staff has set up a collaborative work space inside the school known as a makerspace, which has been named the Knight’s Forge. It is new at the school this year and allows students access to coding every day during study hall.

The Knight’s Forge has Sphero robots and Dash and Dot robots, and Provenzano has provided the students with his own personal littleBits droid kit and code kits to work on their coding skills. The students use laptop computers and iPads when coding.

“It teaches students how to think and solve problems,” said Michelle Martin, Liggett director of marketing and communications. “It’s like writing a series of instructions.”

Provenzano, who is the makerspace  director, has students who visit the Knight’s Forge regularly to explore coding in many different forms. One student uses coding to see how it’s possible to make music by writing lines of code. Other students spend time in the makerspace exploring how to use a motion sensor to set off an alarm and flash a light.

Some students use the time to design fun things in the programming language Scratch and play games. Aside from coding, students use the space to work on 3-D design, arts and crafts, and other projects of interest.

“I currently have a student designing his own replica of the Sphinx for his social studies class, and another student designing ornaments as gifts for his family,” Provenzano said. “Coding is just one of many different parts of the Knight’s Forge, and students seem to really enjoy it.”

On Dec. 15, Liggett Instructional Technology Specialist Michael Medvinsky provided a report to several staff members after students from kindergarten through fifth-grade participated in the Hour of Code movement. For one hour during the morning, students participated in various coding exercises.

Kindergarten coders, for example, used an iPad application called Kodable to create directional algorithms to direct furry aliens known as “Fuzzes” through a maze-covered planet called “Smeeborg.” According to Medvinsky’s report, the activity supported the students’ exploration of sequence, order of operations, conditional statements and object orientation.

During their Hour of Code, the third-grade coders used the Blockly language to code the Dash and Dot robots. Dot was trapped behind a barrier of cups and Dash was programmed to come to the rescue.

The fourth- and fifth-grade students used their understanding of Scratch to remix the Google Doodle. A Google Doodle is a special, temporary alteration of the logo on Google’s home page that commemorates holidays, events, achievements and people, and Google released its logo for young coders.