The idea that grade 4 and 5 students are writing computer code to create an APP is likely mindboggling to most adults, but this is exactly what is happening at the Swanson Road Intermediate School. The goal is to have a trivia game about the Arboretum on the school’s grounds ready for April 22nd, Earth Day, and they are progressing nicely according to teacher Sarah Connell. Over any 6-day period at the school, Connell teaches all 24 classes of students about technology with the use of iPads and computers.

It was during one of these classes that the trivia game idea emerged, and grade 4 student Cameron McLaughlin wondered if they should call in some professionals. He approached Connell during recess one day and asked if a video designer could come in and talk to the class about their game project. Subsequently, Cameron wrote a letter to the Massachusetts Digital Game Institute and they responded positively.

Cameron told Auburn Mass Daily, “I wondered whether they would have any ideas for our game. I wanted to meet them and ask some questions.” That opportunity came to fruition last Friday when MassDiGI came to SWIS for a discussion and more. According to their web page, MassDiGI is the result of creative collaboration among academia, state government and industry, aimed at fostering the growth of the innovation economy in Massachusetts, and it is based at Becker College.

SWIS student Cameron McLaughlin talks to representatives from MADiGI last Friday after they responded to his invitation to visit the school. Photo by John R. Anderson

 

Timothy Loew, Executive Director, Monty Sharma, Managing Director, along with Emily Ryan, a junior majoring in video game design kept two groups of students entertained and passed along a lot of information about successful game design. They said the move from playing games to designing games can be a challenge, but most games start with a simple premise. Minecraft, for instance, started with the question, “Wouldn’t it be great to have an unlimited number of Legos?”

One MADiGI game quickly enjoyed by the students was Cat Tsunami which is due to be rereleased in early May after significant reworking. The young coders at SWIS are using simple techniques offered by Code.org, a popular computer science learning site. If the excitement level in the classroom was any indication of the students’ dedication, the trivia game should be terrific.

Connell said a big celebration is planned for April 29th and will include a 15x15’ mural on the outside of the school near the arboretum. A $4,000 grant from the Auburn Cultural Council is paying for the artist. This is one assignment that will result in some fun.


 

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