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Curious Coders, Designers, and Detectives

Middle School students were challenged to apply their design thinking, coding and digital citizenship skills in the morning of their recent stretch day activities led by our Tech and Innovation Coaches. Engaged and empowered to push their thinking when applying their skills and understanding, students were working on their capacity to code, design and iterate rapidly, and be a digital detective.

During their coding session led by Mr. Frape, students were given a challenge based on their coding background. For students less familiar with coding, they tackled three increasingly difficult challenges from Code.org and LightBot. For students with some coding background, they were first applying what they knew of Scratch to the Meteor Frenzy challenge. For those who already knew Scratch quite well, they tackled the Rock Paper Scissors challenge using the Python programming language. Several students shared that they were surprised how easy coding was and how much they enjoyed coding.

“Float your Boat” design challenge was the second workshop taking place in the Idea Lab. After a short mini lesson about buoyancy and flotation, Mr. Erni (Grade 8 science) challenged the students to build a boat that would not only float but could also carry weight. With a set number of materials at their disposal, groups of three or four students planned, thought, and tinkered their way to boats which were then tested.

Building and Negotiating

As they tried and adjusted their ideas, we could overhear their thinking as they applied what they knew about flotation and construction: What if we did . . .; Let’s make this part a big sturdier; If we do this, then; I think this is really good – I thought we’d run out of time.

Testing and “ahas” 

As with any new designs, there were many “failures” but clear understanding of what caused the failure and how they could re-adjust.

Engaging Escape Room 

Charged with being data detectives, students were given the following: 

You are conducting research in your lab when the Mayor of Prague calls – stores and cafes are not getting the ice cream and frozen dessert supplies they need – everything is suddenly out of stock everywhere! The only clue is a coded ransom note…

The Mayor is counting on you to locate the criminals and assemble the evidence, so police can make an arrest before Prague runs out of ice cream.

Through this interactive experience created by Dr. Perry (Tech and Innovation coach) students were surprised to learn how easy it is to find the location and other data embedded in digital photos. Many enjoyed creating a message using binary code to  represent letters or numbers using only 1s and 0s (or lights turned on and off in an escape room building).

While students were highly engaged in applying their knowledge and understanding in these diverse stretch day contexts, the students also realized the challenges and fruits of effective collaboration. One student shared being surprised that,  “The way that when you are enjoying something and are all respectful then there is really good teamwork.”

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