Children can learn coding

Amber Sternitzke instructs Keira Benck during a Coding Academy program being offered through the Martin County Library.

For the next few months, area children interested in coding will be able to explore the topic through a course at the Martin County Library.

Coding is a subject that has grown in popularity over the last couple of years. It is little more than creating a set of instructions or “software” for a computer to understand in order to run programs. Librarian Amber Sternitzke explained how the Coding Academy will work.

“It’s an introductory course,” she said. “Kids can come here, and I built a small website that they can enroll in for free online. It has lessons and games and an hour of code activities, and then we’ll talk about some of the vocabulary.

“It’s almost individualized, because they can do it at their grade level. So even on the website they have activities that are for pre-readers, so they don’t necessarily have to be able to read everything and a lot of it is video and game-based oriented and there are skill checks along the way.”

Sternitzke has a brief history with coding and computer science, thanks to her own education.

“I went to Minnesota State University for educational leadership and one of my focuses was on digital citizenship, so I built a website and taught a few sessions through a high school organization called Upward Bound,” she said. “So we focused on that, and then some computer science careers too.”

When asked about funding, Sternitzke said the library received a grant from the Martin County Youth Foundation for 10 Chromebooks, which is why kids need to register for the course.

“Traverse Des Sioux offered a training program at MSU so they brought in a trainer and anyone that was interested was able to take it for free,” Sternitzke said. “So I took it and then approached [library director Jenny Trushenski] about filling out grant application to see if we could get the Chromebooks.”

Sternitzke said the skill will be useful in the long run.

“There’s a shortage of computer coders just because the shift in technology is evolving all the time,” she noted. “There’s a constant need for computer programmers.

The course is being offered once per month between February and April. Sternitzke said there are just 10 slots available. Those who sign up for the course are asked not to sign up again, so there will be an opportunity for other kids to take part. But showing up for the once-a-month class isn’t the end of the training.

“Because I set them up with an account, they can take this and do it at home, it’s something they can continue to do,” Sternitzke said. “Hopefully in the fall we’ll offer it again, but for right now it’s February, March, and April. I might offer some teen and tween things this summer so that some of those who are involved in sports can come do it as well.”

Those interested in the course can find out more by contacting the Martin County Library in Fairmont. The phone number is (507) 238-4207.