The Lower Division’s “Fourth Language”: Creative Computing at Avenues

Yumi Nakanishi

An important part of the Avenues mission is to teach 21st-century skills to prepare students for a global society and economy. In the the 2016–2017 academic year, the Lower Division curriculum formally introduced coding and programming as a “fourth” language, in addition to English and Spanish or Mandarin in the immersion program. The goal of this new initiative is for Avenues students to be able to “speak” code and understand why coding is an important 21st-century skill.

Students use in Spanish.

Traditionally, computer science is a separate discipline that includes programming and related challenges as stand-alone activities. At Avenues, computer science is considered creative computing and integrated into the STEAM curriculum. Creative computing empowers students to be creators, not just consumers of technology. Though not all Lower Division students will grow up to be programmers, the introduction of creative computing exposes them all to principles and concepts of computational and critical thinking – skills that will be applicable in any profession.

This year, the Lower Division curriculum introduced coding and programming as a “fourth” language.

Last year, a creative computing “tiger team” (a group tasked with tackling a specific issue or project) composed of Lower Division classroom and specialist teachers was established. This team created a “Code Word of the Month” curriculum, which is being implemented by English, Spanish and Mandarin classroom teachers this year. Additionally, the team developed coding and unplugged activities to accompany each code word of the month. Thus far, the following concepts have been introduced: sequencing, algorithms, debugging, loops, conditionals, efficiency, functions, binary code and decomposition. Because the classroom teachers introduce these concepts rather than a computer science teacher, the hope is to have students understand that these concepts apply not just to programming but also to their daily activities. For example, sequencing is an important concept in programming but equally important in a variety of disciplines throughout the school day; sequencing can be found in math, reading, language, movement and music classes.

2nd graders learn about coding.

Like the Lower Division, the Upper Division also introduced computer science classes into their curriculum. Students in 6th and 7th grade have had coding classes during one of their study halls. The 8th and 9th grade students have one coding class per cycle during their HIP math class. With the creative computing initiative, Avenues is preparing students for the 21st century by allowing them to tinker, to problem solve and to be immersed in the language of code.

Practicing creative computing in the classroom.

  • 1st Grade
  • 2nd Grade
  • 3rd Grade
  • 4th Grade
  • 5th Grade
  • Coding
  • creative computing
  • Lower Division
  • STEM
  • Technology