By Aviva Engel, Director of Communications

Hebrew Academy Elementary students participated in an exciting initiative this week, together with tens of millions of others in over 180 countries worldwide. Called the “Hour of Code”, the event offers a 60-minute introduction to coding and computer science geared for various ages and levels of ability and comprehension. Created by the non-profit, the global initiative coincides with Computer Science Education Week.

“I wanted our kids to be part of the Hour of Code because coding is the language of their future,” said Director of English Studies and Technology Integration Elyse Haber, who brought the event to Hebrew Academy last year. “The students love knowing that they are part of something global and are fascinated to learn about the different events being held all over the world.”

The event  took place in the library and centered on lessons from the website. Grades 2, 3, 5 and 6 caught fish and defeated coconut-clad pirates called Kakamora while playing Moana, a game based on the new Disney movie.

With the help of Grade 6 student volunteers and teachers, Kindergarten children used an app for pre-readers called Kodable, which was also enjoyed by Grades 1 and 4 buddies. At the end of the hour, each student received a beautiful certificate and stickers in recognition of their participation.

While Skyping sessions are commonplace in all Hebrew Academy classrooms and students learn Robotics as early as Grade 3, Haber feels coding – which is the programming behind websites, apps and software – is also a critical competency.

“It’s a skill that should be taught like reading and writing,” she said. “Coding involves creativity and problem solving – very important skills in 21st Century Learning. Students learn grit and how to persevere to solve a problem. This is the world that our students live in and knowing how to write code can only be an asset to them down the road in any field that they choose.”

To that end, Hebrew Academy students have the opportunity to practice their coding skills beyond the 60-minute event. The extracurricular “Lunch and Code” program run by Math Enrichment Teacher Lori Aronoff is extremely popular among Grades 4 to 6 students, while a number of High School students participate in an after-school coding workshop led by Coordinator of Technology and Educational Innovations Rabbi Sorin Rosen.

“Coding is not just ‘a new cool thing’,” said Rabbi Rosen. “It makes for an intrinsic part of our life, as well as the life of future generations. It is a fun, challenging, and vibrant enterprise, which cultivates inquisitiveness, logical thinking, creativity and team work. These are must-have skills in today’s ever-changing world! It was a pleasure to see our students at work during HA’s yearly Hour of Code project, and to know that we are part of a global initiative. I am looking forward to continuing working with the wonderful HA team towards building the future our children deserve.”

Thank you to Elyse Haber for coordinating the event, to Rabbi Sorin Rosen, Lori Aronoff and Librarians Zehava Cohn and Norma Newman for their invaluable support throughout the day, and the many other faculty members who facilitated this wonderful event!

Please click here for video highlights.

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