Cool with Coding at Groveland Elementary

MINNETONKA, Minn. -- It's not unusual to see a toddler playing with an iPad. But could your kindergartner build an app for one?

Minnetonka Public Schools are betting they probably could, with the right foundation. This year the district rolled out a kindergarten through 5th grade curriculum to teach kids how to code.

Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Eric Schneider believes Minnetonka is one of the few districts in the nation that starts students that young. "Palto Alto in California is about the same place we are," he said.

The concept bubbled up through an idea event the district runs each fall -- seeking innovative ideas from teachers and staff. Minnetonka then brought together industry experts, teachers and parents to develop curriculum that would provide an introductory coding experience for all of its elementary students.

"Fitting this in to the academic program has been our biggest design challenge," said Schneider. To alleviate concerns, students will only have a few coding lessons each month, with the ability to work on some things on their own.

Fourth grade teacher Rachel Studnicka said her biggest concern was whether all students would be on board with coding lessons. With her students absorbed on their laptops around her, Studnicka acknowledged those fears were unfounded.

"It's story-based, and there's music and fun characters, so all of the kids are engaged," she said. "In kindergarten they're using robots, be-bots, and they get progressively more complex." Studnicka's fourth graders are working entirely on software.

"It's fun!" said Dalaysha Intharath, who was working on making the character in her program jump over some blocks on the screen.

It might be fun and games here, but Minnetonka teachers are preparing their students for the world that awaits them. A world in which nearly every career path involves computers.

"The kids know that by the time they are in the workforce, it doesn't really matter what field their in," said Studnicka. "If they're in music, if they're in education, if they're in the medical field, chances are they're going to be using code. They're going to be using computers."


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