Computer Science Week encourages an "Hour of Code" for all ages

SAN LORENZO, Calif. (KGO) -- No matter where you are in the world, this week is Computer Science Week -- part of a growing movement to get people of every age writing code, even for just an hour.

At Lea's Christian School in San Lorenzo, Microsoft Store employees outfitted a classroom with Surface PCs for the day, teaching kids the beginnings of how to program using their favorite game: Minecraft.

"How many of you guys in here like Minecraft?" a cheerful instructor named Joseph asked a class of 5th graders whose hands immediately shot up in the air.

The Minecraft curriculum is available for free online through -- the organization behind the "Hour of Code" movement.

"Technology and science is going to be the future for everyone," explained the San Francisco Microsoft Store's manager, Luis Rodriguez.

Once they're bitten by the bug -- and we're not talking about buggy code -- there are plenty of places for kids to take their coding to the next level. One is a Bay Area after-school program called Code Fu, whose founder thinks an hour of code is only the beginning.

"Ideally, an hour a code every week would be wonderful," said Code Fu founder Ryan Hui.

His program includes a class for fifth graders at the Hamlin School for Girls where students learn multiple programming languages including Scratch and JavaScript.

"Like Spanish or Chinese or French," Hui said, "it seems really weird at first, but you learn how to read it."

Some of the projects produce a simple game the girls can play when they're done -- and could help them do well in the more complex game of life down the road.

"It inspires girls to code, and I feel like that's something that's really important since it's a male-dominated field," said fifth-grader Ella Kowal, who's attended Code Fu classes for about two years.

Teachers stress that you don't have to be in fifth grade to start coding. Kids can start learning computer science even before they know how to read, using visual programming languages that replace written commands with colorful blocks. Code Fu teaches after-school classes to kindergarteners, and Microsoft has taught its Minecraft workshops to kids in preschool.

"You can't start early enough," Rodriguez said.

Older kids say starting young has helped them become good at solving problems.

"It makes me always think about it in my everyday life, like how would I code this?" said fifth-grader Audrey Spaly.

Hui said as the kids get the hang of coding, their excitement can become infectious.

"Showing their parents and showing other friends, so inadvertently, they're teaching more people how to code by coming and learning how to code themselves," he said.
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