- Associated Press - Saturday, February 13, 2016

PERU, Ill. (AP) - Students at Peru’s Parkside School might be too young for a morning cup of coffee, but the seventh- and eighth-grade students are just the right age to learn about Java.

New this school year, Parkside’s coding class offers students a basic introduction to computer programming.

“This year, I just wanted to give them a basic introduction to programming,” said Katie Budnick, STEM computer applications and coding teacher for Parkside.

Budnick said the seed that grew to become coding class was planted last year, when Budnick was teaching eighth-grade math.

“I seemed to have more and more kids come in and say when they grew up they wanted to be video game designers,” Budnick said.

Initially, Budnick said she was not particularly familiar with coding.

“It was a lot of learning and a lot of playing,” Budnick said.

She began devising a way she would be able to integrate coding into her math class. However, Budnick took an information technology teaching position at Parkside and pitched the idea of a coding class.

“Initially we talked about what exactly it is,” said Parkside principal Lori Madden. “I wasn’t entirely familiar with it.”

After some explanation, Madden said she was excited to embrace a changing technological landscape.

“I’m very happy with it,” Madden said. “More importantly, the students are very excited for it. It’s so engaging for the students. They can’t get enough of it.”

The computer lab can seat 30 students; 28 eighth-grade students took the elective class last trimester, and 29 eighth-graders will take coding next trimester. Twenty seventh-grade students have taken or will take the class each trimester.

“I think as they get older, they get more involved in the video games that they’re playing and have more interest in designing the game,” Budnick said.

Video game design is one of seven topics called clubs the students can focus on during a 12-week trimester. Other clubs include social media, music, art and fashion among others.

“The music and sound people, they make music videos,” Budnick said.

And students focusing on social media design Facebook surveys.

“It’s just amazing to see what the students pick up, and what they make,” Budnick said.

Students are tasked with incorporating certain elements of coding into building their various projects related to their current club.

“The one that everyone loves is the game design,” Budnick said.

One student who bucked this trend was Cade Kaszynski, who was designing a racing game Thursday afternoon.

“I’m putting mud on the road,” the seventh-grader said.

He said he did not have enthusiasm for game design or any other particular topic.

“It’s mostly all the same,” Kaszynski said.

He said his favorite class is “probable P.E.”, and he seldom plays video games.

“Only if it’s raining outside,” Kaszynski said. “I’m a hunter.”

Despite the disinterest, he conceded he knew substantially more about computers and coding than he did prior to taking the class.

Katelyn Lamps, seventh-grade student, said she was unsure what coding was when she found out she would be taking the class, but she has been pleasantly surprised.

“I like coding,” Lamps said. “My favorite part is learning how to do different things on the computer, understanding how programs work.”

Lamps said she is considering becoming a computer teacher when she grows up.

This year’s class is open to both seventh- and eighth-grade students because the class is new, but next year there are plans to expand and create a more advanced class for seventh-graders who took coding this year.

“Next year would aim to get into more script,” Budnick said. “Probably HTML or Java.”

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Source: The (LaSalle) News-Tribune, http://bit.ly/1Uw5cqa

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Information from: News-Tribune, http://www.newstrib.com

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