For St. Anne’s-Belfield School seventh-graders, coding means sharing knowledge

stabWhen the 70 students in St. Anne’s-Belfield School seventh grade began working on their latest science project, they became one of the first educational groups in the nation to create websites using Mozilla’s updated Thimble platform. From rock classification to mineral identification, the students tackled a variety of earth science topics and modified code to create unique sites.

Thimble is an online code editor that encourages users to “write the web on the web” by creating and publishing web pages using HTML, CSS, and Javascript. Ms. Kim Wilkens, co-coordinator of the School’s Computer Science Initiative and founder of local non-profit Tech-Girls, was familiar with the platform from her involvement in Mozilla’s Teach the Web movement.

With the help of a template designed by Wilkens, students modified HTML and CSS codes to make their own science sites. But it was peer support among the students, who did their own problem solving and shared their newfound skills, that was the driving force behind the websites’ successes.

“This is a fantastic example of how we hope Thimble is used for peer-to-peer and mentor-mentee teaching and learning about the world and the Web,” said Chris Lawrence, vice president of learning at Mozilla.

Pam Grosch, the science teacher who initiated the project, saw it as a natural opportunity for students to build their skills in more than one discipline.

“I was looking for a way to assess my students’ knowledge about our first unit of study that includes coding skills,” she said. “By creating websites, my students could ‘show what they know’ in a way that is creative and allows them to learn something new.”

When St. Anne’s-Belfield School launched its Computer Science Initiative last January, it became one of few schools in the nation to implement a computer science curriculum in grades K – 12. More about the School’s Computer Science Initiative is available at www.stab.org/computerscience.