Students explore coding and gaming in 4-H
A 14-year-old 4-H ambassador from Breezy Point designed a coding program for the group, the first of its kind in Minnesota.
BRAINERD — Computer coding and 4-H may not often be thought of as going hand-in-hand but a 14-year-old 4-H ambassador from Breezy Point designed a coding program for the group.
Seeing other kids exposed to an ever-changing online environment and wanting to teach others about the fun of coding, Wyatt Miller, a 4-H ambassador, came up with the idea of forming a gaming and coding club in 4-H.
“In 4-H, we have a lot of farm animal things and tons of that, but we don't have a lot of technology stuff,” Miller said. “If you go to the fair there's mechanical stuff, like building a robot, but you don't see a lot of coding or gaming stuff.“
Cassie Girling, the Crow Wing 4-H youth Extension educator, said Miller came to her with the idea for the project around the beginning of the year.
“I'm online a lot, especially with school and I was thinking, why not make a club that really revolves around an online topic, especially since we don't have a lot of this type of stuff in 4-H,” Miller said.
As it was the first time a program of its kind was brought up, Girling said she reached out to her boss, Jan Derdowski, northeast region extension program leader, with the idea.
“I wasn't sure exactly if it would really fit into our use development best practices,” Girling said. “So I didn't want to shut him down, but knew that I wanted to do some checking before I gave it the green light.”
Derdowski gave Miller’s project the go-ahead to start the program, Girling said. And so, they began planning the program’s curriculum and agenda.
“The purpose was to expose the coding world to other 4-H’ers, build that sense of belonging and get to know more people that are interested in that area,” Girling said. “We walked through the business meeting part, that's also in our 4-H programs, and he came up with the idea of Internet safety.”
Miller said he became interested in teaching others about internet safety after he heard about a child who was taken by a predator pretending to be someone their own age. He believes safety advice coming from one's peers would be better accepted than the same advice coming from an adult.
Programs in 4-H start with a welcome and an icebreaker introduction before getting down to brass tacks, their business meeting where they talked about internet safety during their first meeting March 10.
After business is taken care of, the group played Minecraft. A widely popular video game out since 2011, Miller said he uses the game to teach others how game code is used to accomplish different things.
Miller uses hourofcode.com to teach his club about coding and gaming. Its website describes Hour of Code as “a one-hour introduction to computer science, using fun tutorials to show that anybody can learn the basics.”
The game has also been adapted into Minecraft Education , used to teach lessons from coding and math to leadership and sciences. The website explains it as “a game-based platform that inspires creative, inclusive learning through play that unlocks new ways to take on any subject or challenge.”
Choosing the game for its appropriateness across all age ranges and its ease of modification, Miller said he plans to teach others about coding by designing simple modifications they can load into the game to change how functions of the game operate.
Plans are to start with easy codes such as HTML before moving on to Java and Python. Miller also hopes to use a program called App Lab where users can design apps of their own over the summer.
After the club was opened to the state for enrollment, Girling said it filled the seven available spots within an hour and Miller is already looking forward to expanding the number of seats available for the club as well as working on other projects to get others interested in coding and gaming.
With all the seats available being filled, Miller said he would love to see the club expand to be able to accept more students as they work to continue the club.
More information on joining 4-H can be found by contacting the University of Minnesota Extension-Crow Wing County office at 218-824-1069 or emailing email@example.com . Learn more about 4-H Youth Development at extension.umn.edu .
TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .