After-school program turns Circle View Elementary students into kids who code


Circle View Elementary School is providing the building blocks for students to get a head start on coding.

For the past eight weeks, 30 first- to fifth-graders have spent their Wednesday afternoons learning simplified fundamentals of computer programming through an after-school program led by Jen Chiou.

Chiou is the founder of CodeSpeak Labs, a computer science education program based in Orange County and New York that teaches computer programming by using Google’s Blocky, MIT’s Scratch, Lego Mindstorms, HTML/CSS and JavaScript.


Chiou has partnered with the Huntington Beach school to offer the curriculum to students who learn how to build websites, apps and games.

The program’s debut at Circle View will end in May.

“We’re trying to enrich and challenge our students,” said Principal Kristi Hickman. “We’re trying to get kids familiarized at this level so once they get into college, they’ll know all about it.”

This past Wednesday, students worked on Scratch to create animations of characters racing. Students were able to select the background of the race, choose characters and add sound effects. Scratch enables students to drag, drop and add blocks that represent a series of code. And behind each block, students have the option to see the actual coding that goes with it.

“We have to get them engaged and excited before they get caught up in the mess,” Chiou said, referring to coding languages such as JavaScript and Python. In the next semester, Chiou said, students will use Bitsbox and see JavaScript instead of blocks.

Chiou encouraged students to work on their racing project but also gave them the freedom to explore new widgets.

One student used a scenic background of a city for his racing project, while another figured out how to take a picture of herself using the built-in camera on the Chromebook computer, import the photo and use it as the background.

Third-grader Addison Smith, 9, worked quietly at her desk as she programmed a puppy and squirrel to race each other. Addison is one of five girls enrolled in the program, which is dominated by boys.

Addison learned about coding after watching an episode of the television show “Shark Tank” with her father. And when she went home with a flier from school advertising the new program, she asked her dad if she could join.

“I like talking to a computer,” Addison said. “It’s been pretty easy so far.”

Fifth-grader Brandon Park, 11, raved about the program and said he hopes to work as a software engineer.

“Coding is so good, it can help you get many jobs and be successful,” Brandon said. “And it’s fun because you can create whatever your imagination wants, like making a UFO fly.”

To read the article in Spanish, click here

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