Learning to code: St Thomas Aquinas students learn a 'new type of literacy'

What entices primary school students to give up their lunchbreak?

This answer may surprise you. It's coding.

More than 260 students across all year levels at St Thomas Aquinas Primary in Springwood attended the inaugural coding club lunchtime launch, held over a full week due to popularity.

For the uninitiated, terms like spheros, ozobots, bee-bots, tynker, hopscotch, and kodable may leave you scratching your head, but these kids knew what they were doing. Using the Scratch program on Chrome books and iPads, the students were programming robots such as bee-bots and spheros, to follow their directions.

Emily Burke liked the idea of being able to instruct a machine to complete tasks.

"I could make this robot that when you're in bed it goes downstairs and makes you breakfast and brings it to you. I don't like going downstairs for breakfast," the nine-year-old said. 

And at age 11, Baxter Ellem was keen to learn as many different coding languages as possible to become a computer programmer as an adult.

Meanwhile eight-year-old Callum Gibbons was enjoying instructing a robot to follow certain lines. "It's fun and you get to learn more coding stuff," he said. 

New deputy principal Genevieve Smith was keen to introduce a coding club at the school, after witnessing its success at her previous school St Michael's Primary in Baulkham Hills.

"It's so important to them in this age. They're learning problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration and critical inquiry," Ms Smith said.

"It's not overtaking literacy but it's a new type of literacy. We have to make sure our teachers are up on it."

The school is embracing digital technology across the curriculum and will this year trial teaching touch typing to their year three students.

Ms Smith explains how coding is often an unseen but essential part of every day life, controlling things such as traffic lights.

She expects after the initial rush the coding club will reduce to 50 or 60 diehards, who will be divided by ability level next term.

The intention is to create an interactive game by the end of the year with an anti-bullying theme that can be accessed online and via iPad.