Diocesan News

Students Learn a New Language: Coding

BUSHWICK — In today’s digital age, young people are becoming more exposed to the behind-the-scenes of technology, including learning how to write code. At St. Brigid-St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Academy in Bushwick, junior high students are doing just that since September 2020 with their math and science teacher Jose Martinez.

Seventh-grader Eli Perez, for example, imagined, drew, designed, and self-coded four different games — including a Christmas-themed game, in which the player has to rescue presents from the Grinch, and a maze program that tasks the player to find his/her way out before the clock runs out. The code she wrote is public, allowing other interested students to learn and study how those programs were written.

“I feel like, through my coding, I could express myself and my creativity,” Perez told Currents News. “It just helps me relax.”

According to the non-profit organization and website code.org, 50 countries have implemented nationwide policies or plans for computer science in elementary school and high school since 2013 — with many drawing inspiration from the organization’s effort in the United States. The non-profit also reported that, while 90 percent of parents want their children to study computer science, only 47 percent of high schools teach the subject.

“Young people aren’t the future,” remarked Pope Francis in March 2019 when he became the first pope to program a computer, after contributing a line of code to an app with three students. “They are the today, they are the now.”

Pope Francis continued to say, “They have unimaginable power, they are creative. They should get involved now with creativity.”

In Brooklyn, Martinez wanted to show students this new world of coding in the classroom but had to figure out how to make it interesting for them.

“I know they play games,” he said. “I thought that making games is something that could really get them excited.”

“They’re always on the computer, so it’s something that’s very engaging for them,” added Marcia Soria, principal of St. Brigid-St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Academy. “It’s not just playing the game, but it’s also involving their thinking skills and creativity.”

Seventh-grader Eli Perez’s self-coded Christmas-themed game. (Photo: Courtesy of St. Brigid-St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Academy)

Due to the popularity of this new initiative amongst students, Martinez and Soria are optimistic about what it can provide St. Brigid-St. Frances Cabrini in the future. Soria would like to implement a separate program and class for the entire school.

“Technology is very important, especially nowadays as the pandemic continues on. Kids are more remote and are doing things that are more engaging than just sitting and listening to a teacher,” Soria said. “We’re striving to foster more important 21st-century skills for the children and, in doing so, prepare them for whatever the future holds for them.”

Martinez added, “I want them to get the most out of this school. I want them to have good memories and remember the fun they had here.”

“I’m very proud of Mr. Martinez and all the students in his class who are very excited about doing this program, and I hope that they continue to prosper and to do well,” Soria said.