Hour of Code – Introducing Kids to Computer Programming

I was talking to my wife on the phone yesterday and she said my oldest son Anders (he’s 10 and in 4th grade) was really excited to tell me something. He’s big into Minecraft these days and has been on my case for a long time to start him his own blog. She put him on the phone and he started talking about something called the Hour of Code. Turns out his school is participating in a program through code.org for Computer Science Education Week, and it involves learning how to do some basic computer programming. I’d be lying if I didn’t smile a bit at the fact that he was excited to tell me about this!

When I got home he showed me the handout they had given him:

Hour of Code 1 Hour of Code 2

I’m far from a computer programmer, and most of my coding knowledge is self-taught and came as a result of needing to know a bit of HTML and CSS to make my Blogger blog look the way I wanted it to (that and the bit I learned in elementary school to be able to move  a LOGO turtle around a screen). I know enough to customize a blog, but that’s about it. However, I’ve come to appreciate that programming skill is a pretty handy tool to have in this day and age.

I just checked out the code.org site with my 8yo daughter and it’s a pretty cool resource. She did the first five levels of the Angry Birds challenge and said “this is fun, and learning!” If you have kids with an interest in computers, it’s definitely worth checking out. I may even work through a few of the modules myself!

Below is a video introducing the Angry Birds module from the code.org website:

About Peter Larson

I'm a biology teacher, blogger, and science geek with diverse interests (and experience) in the areas of zoology, anatomy, evolutionary biology, developmental biology, and exercise science. I'm currently expanding my passion for science education by making the jump from higher ed (10 years as a biology professor at Saint Anselm College) to teaching high school biology at Coe-Brown Northwood Academy in Northwood, NH. In addition to being a dedicated teacher, I'm also an avid distance runner - I write about running at Runblogger.com. You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+.


  1. I am an experienced computer engineer, and still remember my earliest experiences with computer programming. In 4th grade I wrote my first “insult program” in BASIC on our Apple IIe (e.g. “What is your name?____”. “Gee ___ is a dumb name!”). I later recall working slavishly on my own version of “Zork” and discovering just how complicated that game was in the process.

    These early fun experiences eventually shaped my college decisions, and ultimately my career. My experiences in the early ’80s was not formal training, but simply a form of playing.

    My own 3rd and 5th graders are now having fun on code.org and I see in their eyes the same feeling of glee I got when first learning how to control what happens on a computer. I don’t have to tell them to “Do your programming homework!”. It’s all just fun to them, and is an alternative to other games they might play on the computer.

    I’ve always been on the fence about the idea of making coding part of the elementary school curriculum. I.e. Very few kids are ever going to become programmers so why waste precious school hours on this? I do however see great merit in using tools like code.org to open the eyes of kids to the fun side of careers in computing. I see it in the same light as to why we expose our kids to sports, music, and art even though only a minuscule number of kids will ever make a career out of those fields. Without exposure, that minuscule number would be 0, and that’s not something we can afford as a society.

    • Zork! Forgot about that game. My brother used to make games on our Atari 800, simple things like a program that would randomly pick a winner between little plastic cowboy and indian figures. Was great fun.

      I do think that a career as a computer programmer might be more likely than say in professional sports or music, and it’s a skill that can be used in other careers (e.g., I’m not a skilled programmer/coder, but knowing a bit helps a lot as a writer, and I’m starting to do some one-off jobs as a web designer). IT’s amazing how even knowing just enough to build a webpage puts you far ahead of the vast majority of people who are terrified at the site of even basic HTML!

  2. I absolutely love this – they had some programming events for my kids, but nothing as cool as this one … and much of what my kids learned was programming robots on their own (got them a kit) or making levels for Portal 🙂

    • My son loves building thin, whether it be legos, Minecraft houses, etc. so getting him into building stuff via programming seems like a natural extension. It’s a great skill to have when he starts considering a career path too!

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