Cape Gazette
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Angry Birds, zombies bring computer programs to life

Eagles Nest, Cape schools learn to write code
By Melissa Steele | Dec 25, 2013
Eagle's Nest Christian Academy computer teacher Mary Patterson helps TJ Mackey with a computer programming game.

Mason Bohinski knows all about Angry Birds. Typically, the birds that slingshot across the screen in a popular video game, earning points after colliding with various contraptions.

On Dec. 9, Mason and his second-grade classmates at Eagles Nest Christian Academy put an Angry Bird to another use – to help them learn to write computer code.

“This is a lot different from the game,” said Mason, as he stacked commands to make the angry, red bird move across the screen.

Students used forward, left and right commands to help the angry bird move through a maze in order to hit a mean pig who stole the bird's eggs. Maniacal laughter and other cartoonish sound effects helped celebrate once the bird reached his goal.

Students at Eagle's Nest and Cape Henlopen School District schools were part of a worldwide effort by Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and other computer geniuses to encourage students to learn computer programming. The Hour of Code program at http://code.org was part of Computer Science Education Week Dec. 9 through 15.

“It's the basics of getting them to understand that computers have to be taught to do things,” said Mary Patterson, computer teacher at Eagle's Nest.

Makers of the code program are hoping to turn that around, and are targeting students as young as kindergarten in an effort to teach them about computer programming.

“We're short on computer programmers. Students don't think of computer programming as a career field when they get to college,” Patterson said.

During the computer code drills, celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and NBA player Chris Bosh helped explain computer programming techniques and encouraged students to learn the skill. There were 20 levels of programming to accomplish, each level progressively harder than the previous one. The last few levels replaced the angry bird with a zombie searching for the path to a sunflower, uttering zombie-like groans when he reached his destination.

This worked well for the older students, some of whom breezed through the drills. Kindergarten students generally needed guidance through the activities.

Still, the Angry Birds theme helped students relate to the activity.

“They really picked up the Angry Bird quickly,” said Jen Jarrell, a parent volunteer who helped bring the program to the school.

Once students completed 20 levels of computer code, they earned a certificate congratulating them on completing an hour of writing computer code.

Patterson said she was impressed with the program and the way it reached students.

“It's like putting puzzles together,” she said.

Eagle's Nest second-graders pictured are (l-r) Sarah Eliason, Jeremy Vest, Emmanuel Majjul, Luke McCarthy and TJ Mackey. (Photo by: Melissa Steele)
Second-grader Mason Bohinski chats with classmate Audre Pilkington while parent volunteer Jen Jarrell helps with the computer programming game. (Photo by: Melissa Steele)
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