Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hour of Code at Buffalo Creek

More than 650 students at Buffalo Creek Elementary School will learn the basics of computer programming through a special “Hour of Code” program planned on Friday, Dec. 13, at this Spring Branch ISD (SBISD) campus. Hundreds and hundreds of other students across SBISD will be learning how to program simple digital games and videos, too.

This massive programming code lesson for all Buffalo Creek students was made possible, in part, through advance planning and registration by second-grade bilingual teacher and campus technology representative Hector Garza.

Through his sign-up efforts, Hector was named the only winning teacher in Texas and his campus was awarded $10,000 for student laptops and iPads through the nonprofit organization, which focuses on introducing the logic skills involved in computer science and programming into classrooms nationwide – and beginning in early grades.

Buffalo Creek Elementary’s “Hour of Code” will be one in hundreds of school events sponsored across SBISD and the nation. During Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 9-15, students in schools across America will learn the basics of computer science for one hour. These lessons are designed to demystify computer “code” and show that learning code is a fun learning curve, just like  learning to read or count, and should now begin at an early age.

Elsewhere in SBISD, classrooms representing than 2,000 students at the elementary, middle and high school level have registered for the “Hour of Code” event. Participating campuses may include Westwood Elementary, Memorial and Spring Forest middle schools and Spring Woods and Memorial high schools.   

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) – West Harris County Branch plans to sponsor a related celebration at Westwood Elementary School. According to research compiled by AAUW and other national groups, women remain enormously underrepresented in the science, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

On Thursday, Dec. 12, three AAUW trainers and the district’s educational technology director will provide professional development to teachers in SBISD on integrating coding into lessons or centers for STEM robots. The public is invited to attend. (See below)

All 26 district elementary schools are bringing coding to kindergarten, first-, or second-grade students this year. In addition, a set of robotic Bee-Bots, coding cards and mats have been issued to at least one teacher at each SBISD elementary school this year. Bee-bots are easily programmable floor robots that children love to play with and program. The AAUW has supported other professional development efforts involving Bee-Bots and student programming.   

At Buffalo Creek, Hector Garza wasn’t the only surprised person when he learned that the school had won the big prize. His principal was astonished, too.

"When Hector initially talked to me about the Hour of Code, signing us up to participate, and that there was a chance for us to win $10,000, well, I just smiled and thought that the experience of learning about programming would be beneficial enough for our students.  So you can imagine my reaction when he told me a few weeks later that BCE had won the funds! It’s a very nice gift,” Principal David Rodriguez said. 

Beginner one-hour tutorials for the “Hour of Code” event range from drag and drop programming using Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies to an introduction to JavaScript and even Python programming scripts written for children.

Buffalo Creek students will work in one-hour shifts in the school library and in two learning pods during the “Hour of Code” program.

Hector Garza, who has taught 11 years at Buffalo Creek, is the campus technology representative and ActivBoard trainer. He registered the school through a well-known online fundraising group called School Librarian Carol Lee helped write the winning proposal.

On Nov. 18, the Buffalo Creek teacher and staff learned that had awarded the SBISD campus $10,000 for student laptop and iPad purchases.

“This achievement means a lot to me. I’ve been in technology here all these years and we’ve struggled at times to purchase equipment. This grant will help integrate technology into the school. I’m especially happy for the students of Buffalo Creek Elementary, which was the main reason for participating,” he said.

“All of us at BCE are not only grateful to Hector for signing us up for the Hour of Code and the winnings that resulted from our participation, we’re also thankful for the diligent job he’s done in researching and choosing the technology that will augment what we already have,” Principal Rodriguez said.
“This will provide our teachers the opportunity to further enhance their instruction and broaden our students’ learning.  We’re also very appreciative of what has done for our school and especially our students,” the principal also said.

Under Texas’ new Foundation Plan for student graduation, secondary courses and programs in advanced computer science, game programming and design, and discrete mathematics used for computer science may be promoted and encouraged by school districts.

For more details on topics explored here and Computer Science Education Week, please visit:

During the AAUW-sponsored professional development event on Dec. 12, community members are welcome to observe or to sign up as Coding Mentors for later volunteer placement.

To learn more or to RSVP for that event, please call SBISD’s Educational Technology Dept. at 713-251-2329. All adult volunteers in SBISD must go through a registration process beforehand.


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