Bruce Museum Expanded Hour of Code Computer Science Programs Include Julian Curtiss

Students at an Hour of Code class conducted by Bruce Museum educators at Julian Curtiss School in Greenwich. Photo by Heather McGuinness

Students at an Hour of Code class conducted by Bruce Museum educators at Julian Curtiss School in Greenwich. Photo by Heather McGuinness

Launched in 2013 to introduce students to the basics of computer science, Hour of Code has grown into the world’s largest learning event.

From kindergarten and up, more than 100 million students in over 180 countries have since participated in a multitude of one-hour activities designed to nurture creativity, boost problem-solving skills and build technology through computer coding.

Educators from the Bruce Museum have been involved with Hour of Code since 2014, and over the past four years have brought more than 150 classes to nearly 3,000 students at schools throughout the Fairfield County region.

This year’s Hour of Code classes took place in November and December and were fully subscribed. In fact, due to high demand, in January the Bruce Museum will be offering a dozen additional Hour of Code programs at two area schools and with a local Cub Scout troop.

Thanks to support from its annual fundraising efforts and a National Science Foundation grant, the Bruce Museum is able to offer its Hour of Code programs free of charge, ensuring it can reach underserved populations. “In some schools, Hour of Code is the only computer science instruction that a student might receive in a year,” says Kate Dzikiewicz, the Bruce Museum’s Paul Griswold Howes Fellow and head of Hour of Code programming. “We try to make Hour of Code as exciting as possible for these students in the hope that they’re inspired to continue learning at home.”

Women and minorities are typically underrepresented in advanced computer science courses. Females currently account for only 25 percent of students enrolled in high school computer classes, a ratio that carries through to the current workforce.

Computing occupations are the fastest-growing, best-paying, and now the largest sector of all new wages in the U.S. Hour of Code has helped make great strides in addressing the diversity gap, with female students accounting for 49 percent of hours served.

The Bruce Museum’s Hour of code roster includes a number of different programs. In grades 4-8, students learn to code with a friendly prehistoric penguin called Kari the Kairuku, a member of an ancient species of giant penguin that once lived in New Zealand and was first described by Dr. Daniel Ksepka, Bruce Museum Curator of Science. A brief animation starring Kari introduces students to the possibilities of code, after which they go on to code their own penguin stories and games.

Children at Julian Curtiss School in Greenwich were eager to share their thoughts after participating in the Bruce’s Hour of Code program earlier in December. “It makes me feel like I can do anything!” said one girl after completing the class. “My brother is a programmer and photographer, and now I can follow in his footsteps,” said another.

At the end of each lesson, students are told that they can code at home using the free online tutorials available on hourofcode.com. When asked if they plan on continuing to learn, answers were resoundingly, “Yes!”

For more information about Hour of Code, please email cflax@brucemuseum.org and ask to be placed on the Museum’s educator mailing list.