Published: 4/13/2022 4:03:37 PM
Modified: 4/13/2022 4:02:25 PM
NORTHFIELD — On one screen, a pig hopped over cars and gathered apples as it made its way back to the farm it calls home. On another screen, a player was dodging an evil penguin in a quest to save the Arctic.
These scenes were a few examples of games created by seventh-grade students at Pioneer Valley Regional School, who showed off their video game development and coding skills Wednesday. The showcase was the culmination of two-and-a-half month computer science unit devoted to coding and programming.
“Nationwide, there’s been an emphasis on teaching coding to students,” said John Heffernan, the class’ teacher. “How do we keep kids coding? We think this is going to help.”
Over the course of the unit, the students learned the basics of coding and were given free range to create any game they wanted to.
“It was really hard,” said student Kallie Kratz, who created a game she described as a “sort of penguin version of Mario.” “It took me a few weeks. I had to come up with all the characters and make the platforms.”
Kallie said it was really fun to create her game, even though she doesn’t want to pursue programming in the future.
“I’m still glad I got to do it,” Kallie said.
Nora Cutting, who created the game — titled “Lost and Found” — about the pig returning home, said coding the game was a great experience and it was nice to see her plans come together.
“It was exciting,” Nora said, adding that it was “something for fun” as she, likewise, has no desire to be a video game designer in the future.
Jackson Glazier said he “didn’t know what to make” and came up with the idea of a platforming game where the goal is to collect fried chicken.
“It was difficult,” Jackson said, “but it all came together.”
Coding the games, while fun, also provides an opportunity to build on problem-solving skills that are needed to fix coding errors.
“Even if you don’t become a programmer, it should help you in many cases,” Heffernan said. “It helps people think in terms of algorithms” and sharpens “computational” thinking, which can apply to many aspects in life.
Heffernan said the process has been a great experience for his students and the game showcase was where the children could share what they’ve made and receive feedback on their creations.
“It’s rewarding” for the students, Heffernan added. “It’s a real audience and their peers get to experience what they made.”
Chris Larabee can be reached at email@example.com or 413-930-4081.