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Getting Loopy Dances & Functional Suncatchers

Our third and fourth graders engaged in two fun and unplugged activities (no computers!) to learn about loops and functions in technology class this week.

In third grade, students learned that computers are really good at repeating a task over and over again without ever needing to stop for a snack, use the bathroom, or to take a nap! The “Repeat ____ times” block (i.e., loop) was introduced in Blockly to enable our young programmers to take advantage of the power of loops as they program their computers to create shapes that repeat in beautiful patterns.

We began the class looking at how loops are seen in everyday life (e.g., the rotation of the planets, dances, songs, etc) and how the creator of Iluminate, a dance troupe that uses special effects created with lights and computers, codes with loops to make her dancers light up on stage. We then examined a dance to see if we could also figure out how we can use loops to minimize the number of lines of code in the dance algorithm. Finally, the students danced away using the new and more efficient algorithm. The students had so much fun clapping, moving to the beat, and ending the dance with a big belly laugh!

In fourth grade, students learned about functions (i.e, mini programs you can call on at different points in your program) and how they are powerful tools that enable programmers to efficiently code a set of instructions that repeat at different points in time. We also briefly discussed the difference between a loop and a function (loops allow for the repetition of a set of instructions when the loop is executed in the program while functions can be called upon with one line of code at any point within a program). Students will further examine the difference between these two tools in middle school technology class. 
Another concept, the variable, was also introduced. Students determined that variables are simply placeholders for pieces of information that can change. For example, “name”, “age”, and “grades” are variables. With these concepts in mind, students wrote an algorithm using variables and functions to create their functional suncatchers. With their programs in hand, students created beautiful and unique suncatchers to hang on their windows. Some students even used them as keychains for their backpacks!