Sneaky Programming, Sis

I like Finland’s approach to teaching computer programming: In Finland, Kids Learn Computer Science Without Computers

Programming people

This was very like how I pitched to get computer programming into a Montessori middle school: it’s not so much about time in front of screens, but more about introducing kids to the concepts involved in getting a computer to do what you want it to do. We spent the first three weeks (of a ten week course) away from the computer and outside, or working with materials in the class like dice, poker chips, and a whole bunch of cardboard boxes.

One week they worked with basic commands for their fellow classmates like forward, back, right, left and directed each other around a grid to pick up the prizes. They became the computer with an exercise like the one we would run at Loreto Primary School in Dalkey. We did everybody’s favorite exercise of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Gear for offline programming

The next week they used dice to generate some results they wanted to store in variables and remember for later. We also turned the set of commands you’d need to make someone perform jumping jacks into a function so we could easily make people do some jumping jacks. We even invented our own function, monkeyJumps(numberOfJumps) that I’m pretty sure is physically impossible to perform.

In the third week we developed a few new card games to show off conditional logic:

if the card is red:

Award your team 1 point


if the card is higher than 9:

Award the other team one point


Award your team the same number of points on the card

We mixed in some hands on work with Raspberry Pis and the excellent Screen Kit and Computer Kit to demystify what a computer actually is a little bit, but you’d be amazed how far you can get, teaching kids how to program a computer without actually having a computer.