EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Matthew Levine, 11, likes playing video games, but he likes making them even more.
Levine, a sixth-grade student at the Fernwood Avenue Middle School demonstrated how he used the program Scratch to design two games during a special program at the township High School Thursday.
In one game a knight had to rescue a princess. “Oops wrong door!” the knight says when he misses; “Nice!” if he is successful. In another game a dragon has to see how long he can avoid a wizard chasing him.
“I’m not just doing what someone else made,” Levine said. “I made something that others also enjoy.”
The “others” Thursday were township high school students brought in to the media center to learn about coding from students in the Alder Avenue and Fernwood Avenue middle schools’ coding clubs.
The event culminated the district’s participation in the national “Hour of Code” project last week to promote computer programming. At one table students demonstrated how they programmed small round Ozobots to follow a path.
“I love how you can control it and make it do what you want,” said Sophia Rodriguez, 13, an eighth-grader at Fernwood who joined the club last year.
Mary Ann Cassidy, adviser for the Fernwood coding clubs, said about 20 students participate in the sixth-grade club, and another 20 in the seventh- and eighth-grade club.
“They get to be with kids like themselves who love this,” she said.
Students start with simple programs such as Scratch, which are fun but also introduce the basics of coding.
Adam Swift, who teaches computer science at the high school and advises its coding club said interest in computer science has been growing since he arrived six years ago and had just two Introductory classes and one Advanced Placement class with maybe 10 students.
He credits the middle schools with showing students that coding is interesting.
“Today there are five Introductory classes and two AP classes,” Swift said. He is also happy to see more girls interested in the field.
“Coding is not just in technology, it’s in everything,” he said. He has a student who is working on a shirt that will light up.
Alder Avenue School sixth grade student Paige Harriott, 11, who wants to be a computer engineer, demonstrated how she programmed characters to perform. She loves coding for its creativity.
“You can be as creative as possible,” she said. “You use your imagination and it’s fun.”
Levine believes computer science and coding will help him in his future, but right now it’s just something he really enjoys.
“We learned Scratch and I loved it so much I went home and did it every day,” he said.