Students learn to code during Summer Jumpstart despite the distance.

“I’m really new at this coding kind of thing,” shared Esaias, a bright and energetic incoming TAF@Saghalie 6th-grader and Jumpstart participant. “…but I got help from my coding teacher.”

Four months ago, TAF staff were trying to wrap their heads around converting a 12-year-old program into a virtual experience. Yet, last Thursday, over 37 students presented their websites to their virtual class and a handful of presentation guests. It was a remarkable display of brilliance and resilience, to say the least.

Let’s put this in perspective.

Students now have to adapt the same remote working standards as adults of logging into Zoom, sharing screens, sorting out a host of connection issues, balancing collaborative and asynchronous work, and more. These students just matriculated out of fifth-grade. 

Some adjustments were required to make Jumpstart possible. We had to think through how we could provide students with the materials and tools necessary to engage in the hands-on-learning. We also had to change the weekly schedule and daily structure to accommodate screen fatigue and overall capacity. Though things looked different, we figured it out. Students picked up STEM kits at the beginning of the program, and we coordinated with the Federal Way Public Schools IT to ensure everyone had a laptop. We were determined to deliver the same robust program as always.

Jumpstart student picking up his STEM kits, slime, and program t-shirt from TAF@Saghalie school campus.
Jumpstart student picking up his STEM kits, slime, and program t-shirt from TAF@Saghalie school campus.

Stephanie Williams, TAF Extended Learning Coordinator, was one of Jumpstart’s leads this year. She helped turn it into an online program and supported student engagement, including the registration process and daily program needs.

“Shifting the in-person program to a virtual format was challenging at first, but we were able to really bring a well-rounded, well-thought-out, exciting experience to the kids,” Williams recounted. “Many of the kids were missing the connection with their friends and teachers, so they really enjoyed that.” 

TAF@Saghalie’s Jumpstart began in early July and was conducted mainly through Zoom for four weeks. Students learned about four countries — Guatemala, Indonesia, Australia, and France — before creating websites to showcase their acquired knowledge about their cultures. They also used their STEM kits to build items like a bicycle racer and STEM tops. 

Sixth-grade teachers Ms. May and Mr. Tracey made good use of Zoom’s breakout rooms in which several workshop leaders joined classroom sessions to provide lessons. Students participated in financial literacy lessons led by Bank of America’s Financial Beginnings program. They also learned coding fundamentals from TAF Teacher Scientist Partnership (TSP) Program Manager Michelle Oliver and volunteer professionals from Amazon and Google.

“When I first started with the kids that first week, I asked if any of the kids had done any coding at all,” Oliver shared. “Some of them had, but only on Scratch which is block code. So basically, all of the kids started from ground zero, learning not only about structure and content but also about the fundamentals of how to create the framework of the website while also adding multiple CSS and HTML tags — all from scratch.”

“They did such a good job! You could see when they were grasping it when they began putting in some humor.”

MICHELLE OLIVER
Teacher Scientist Partnership (TSP) Program Manager, TAF

Thursday’s presentations were a victory with 100% student participation. Students sported Jumpstart program t-shirts, shared favorite creations from their STEM kit, provided an overview of one of the countries they studied and shared their screens to display the website they created and their code. Some parents made an on-screen appearance to support their child and beamed with pride while their students presented. Lastly, teachers praised the participants for their effort, perseverance, and ability to have fun.

“They did such a good job! You could see when they were grasping it when they began putting in some humor,” Oliver said with satisfaction. “One of the kids, August, even did an advanced image tag that included a squawking rooster while using ordered and unordered HTML list tags. It was super cute!”

Screen-shot from Jumpstart student August’s presentation about Guatemala featuring a squawking rooster.
Screen-shot from Jumpstart student August’s presentation about Guatemala featuring a squawking rooster.

“My favorite thing about Jumpstart was meeting new people and the teachers I might have next year,” Jaylyn, an incoming 6th-grader, reflected. “My favorite thing was completing my website, meeting new people, and playing games,” Michael shared. Another student shared his most significant success as making the code work on his website, saying, “I was proud of that.”

“Many of the kids expressed that they enjoyed coding and stem kits,” Williams shared when asked about the program’s success. “Kids learned new skills that will carry them into the school year.”

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