Teaching coding at primary school doesn’t
have to only be part of the computing curriculum.
It’s National Coding Week, and we take the opportunity to look at how coding can be part of subjects across the curriculum.
Matt Smith leads CAS Okehampton Primary Community and is also a Year 6 teacher at Okehampton Primary School in Devon where coding has become ‘cross curricular’.
The school’s Science Week, in particular, saw an opportunity to incorporate coding skills. The Y6 children at Okehampton created a Google Site during Science Week with a focus on space.
“They had complete freedom to choose an area of interest to write about,” said Matt. “The children worked in pairs and threes to complete the task. Most opted to create a web page with both an embedded Slides presentation and a Scratch animation. Some of the Scratch projects created an animation to depict the orbit of the Earth around the Sun and the Moon around the Earth.
“Each member of the team took on the roles that they felt that were most suited to and they also used the driver/navigator (and supervisor in threes) model of working.
“The project was a great success and the quality of the work across all subjects was very high.”
But it’s not just special focus weeks that see an opportunity to use coding. Children of all year groups use it for topic learning at Riverside Primary in Plymouth.
“At Riverside, most of the teaching we do at my school is theme based and Cross Curricular,” said Ed Carr, Y4 teacher at Riverside and lead of CAS Primary Plymouth Community.
The science topic for Y2, Down at the Bottom of the Garden, saw coding used to look at natural habitats with children using Scratch to code a 2D animations showing insects living within a specific habitat.
The history topics for Y3 may have been Ancient Egypt and the Stone Age, but children were able to use 21st century skills to explore the themes. Children studying Ancient Egypt used Scratch to code an interactive screen which describes mummification and the contents of Canopic jars. Y3 children also used iPads and stop motion animation software to produced short videos about life in the Stone Age period.
“This year they used plasticine, but we are hoping to use LEGO in the future,” said Ed.
History was also brought to life by Y4 children during their topic, Victorians. They used Scratch to code a game where poor children, based on Dicken’s novel Oliver Twist, needed to catch gruel in a plate.
“This followed a study of the period and a taste test on what gruel was actually like!” explained Ed “And not surprisingly, the weren’t very keen to try it again!”
Young historians in Y5 studying The Mayflower, used Scratch to code a 2D animations showing the Mayflower leaving Plymouth for its journey to the New World and included Pilgrim characters sharing their reason for travelling.
It’s not just history and science that have seen opportunities for coding. PSHE and Geography topics for Y6 have also been enriched with coding activities.
“The children took part in a series of lessons that looked at pollution and the problems with plastic in our seas,” explained Ed. “They used Scratch to code a game, similar to Space Invaders, where a starfish character needs to avoid plastic polluting objects as they fall through the sea.”
When consider the benefits of using a cross curricular approach to coding, Ed explained, “As a school, we feel that a cross curricular approach allows opportunities us to enrich the children’s learning and provide the children with chance to use technology, their creativity, logic and computational thinking skills to solve problems in a whole range of engaging ways”.
Suzanne Cray, CAS Outreach Manager for the South West, said; "These are fabulous cross-curricular examples of using computing to explore topics and solve problems. Computing at School is an ideal place to share resources and develop ideas with colleagues in community meetings and on the CAS website. We can work together to inspire the next generation of coders in a practical and relevant context."