In Hawaii, young students learn computer science by building mazes, and they are excited and engaged in math as well as coding, cybersecurity, and game design.
Ten years ago, teacher Shane Asselstine approached the principal at Momilani Elementary school with the unusual idea of incorporating Minecraft into math lessons. The result today is that he teaches “Tech Lab”, including math and principles of computer science. Unlike the students of ten years ago, who were bored with textbook approaches, the students are completely engaged as they learn computer science along with ratios, probability, fractions, and percentages.
Integrating math, science, and language arts with computer learning in K-6 curriculum is vital, according to Asselstine.
“There isn’t an industry out there that isn’t impacted by computer science right now,” Asselstine said.
At Momilani, each student from kindergarten on up is assigned a Chromebook computer. Fundraising and donations are a critical part of keeping the technology up to date and available. Equipment is replaced every five years. “Tech Lab” is required for grades three through six.
Fourth graders are tasked with evaluating the functionality of a video game that Asselstine’s previous classes designed, called “Zombie Maze.” They were to find if the directions made sense, if the game was engaging, the code clearly written, and how the game could be improved.
“You get a lot of people who say kids need to learn Java or C++, but what they really need to understand is foundational thinking that really starts in elementary school,” Asselstine said.