Awnya Johnson and Kendora Harper-Cartier, fifth graders at Elm Street School, show off a mobile app they have been working on as part of a computer coding workshop. (Rick Green/Laconia Daily Sun)
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Fifth graders at Elm Street School showed their parents Friday what they have been working on – a mobile app that calculates how many s'mores can be made with a given amount of chocolate.
Heather Drolet, a technology integrator and winner of the Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical, has been leading a weeklong computer coding workshop. She works in Concord but lives in Laconia.
The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation provides the sabbatical every year so that a teacher can travel the state and work on a meaningful project.
Drolet's coding program allows students to work on critical thinking skills, creativity, collaboration and communication. The motto is “#failforward, never let setbacks stop you from succeeding.”
Students demonstrate that they understand fractions and division of fractions while working through how many chocolate squares are needed for a certain number of s'mores, the traditional campfire snack that includes graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows.
The app allows the user to select a number of chocolate bars and then shows how many s'mores that would make. For example, since each s'more requires one-fourth of a chocolate bar, four bars would provide enough chocolate for 16 s'mores.
“We had to figure out how we were going to do it,” said Kendora Harper-Cartier, one of the students. “So if we had like four chocolate bars, we had to figure out how to divide it by one-fourth.
“Also, putting it together and the main design of it was hard. Adding all the colors to it, that was fun.”
They had to select an icon for the app. They had to test the app before “it went live.”
Harper-Cartier and classmate Awnya Johnson even tried to put a soundtrack of a crackling campfire in the background of the app, but they ran out of time.
Drolet said her workshop could spark an interest in computer science that will pay off for the kids and for the state.
“This is when we get their interest, especially the girls,” Drolet said. They say, 'Oh, we can do this.'
“And, it's not yet the environment where they are in a computer class and they are the one girl in a classroom with 15 boys. They are like, 'Oh, I'm an equal and I can do it.'
“When you look at statistics, we have way more computer science jobs in New Hampshire than we have people qualified to fill them. And so the point is to try to get kids engaged in that sooner and realize that they may be interested in that as a career choice but also to inject or inspire a sense of problem solving and computational thinking.”
To build the app, the students used a computer program available through thunkable.com. Workshop computers and tablets were donated through a charitable foundation.
Drolet, who works at Christa McAuliffe Elementary School in Concord, next takes her workshop to Pleasant Street School.
The apps are different depending on local preference. At Pleasant Street, students will be working on an app showing an engineering, design process.
Drolet has a master's degree in technology integration in education.
“In order to stay current with technology in the classroom, we need to find those new, innovative things that instruct but also assess in the classroom and this is a great way to show that they understand what a fraction is because they are applying it in a real world sense,” she said.
Parents were brought in to get the whole family onboard with the program and the technology. Handouts were given to the parents listing resources and classes that could allow the children to further explore computer science.
Andrea Besegai, who had Drolet's son as a student last year, said her class loved the workshop.
“The engagement was 100 percent,” she said.
She has photos of smiling children working on computer coding.
“Look at their faces. They were absolutely thrilled,” Besegai said.
“Yesterday, when they added the sound and edited it the way they wanted to, they were on top of the world.
“They have a sense of accomplishment and pride. And, when they found that if their parents had an Android or Samsung phone they could download the app, they were like, 'Wow, really, I'm a published coder.'”
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