Evanston students will pursue computer coding challenges through December as part of the new Code65 program, a month-long computer science initiative that builds on the national “Hour of Code” movement.

Driven by Evanston/Skokie School District 65’s EvanSTEM project in partnership with Northwestern University’s Digital Youth Network, Code65 is designed to introduce elementary school children to key coding skills, inspire creative and critical thinking, and help children create technology rather than just using it.

While’s annual 2017 Hour of Code Nationwide Challenge recommends starting with an hour of code, Code65 is taking it a step further by offering students a month of coding challenges at all 13 schools using the District’s Code65 online learning portal powered by Digital Youth Network’s L3 learning platform.

Code65 is “a creative way to make sure all students have opportunities to learn coding that are grounded in content and contexts that they find meaningful and enjoyable,” said Nichole Pinkard, associate professor of learning sciences at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy and co-founder of the Digital Youth Network, a platform designed to help all children become digitally literate.

After poring over the 2017 Hour of Code Activity catalog, the Digital Youth Network team selected activities representing six categories of coding activities: iPad friendly, Snap/Scratch, Mobile Apps, Javascript, and Python.

In addition, they sprinkled a few challenges created by faculty at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy into the mix. The challenges are entry level; after completing at least one, students have access to different pathways.

How it works

Throughout December, students in grades 2 through 8 will pursue coding activities either in their coding, library or math class. Students also can build on their coding skills at home via the on-line Code65 site and/or in afterschool programs hosted by YMCA MetaMedia, Family Focus, the Evanston Public Library or Youth & Opportunity United (Y.O.U.).

Over winter break, students are challenged to create a remix of their favorite Hour of Code challenge. Each accepted student submission will be entered into the Code65 Winter Break Student Challenge raffle.

In addition, the school with the highest percentage of students registered to complete an hour of code and the school with the greatest ratio of students who finished the competition can win up to $1,000 towards a charity of the school’s choice.

“Code65 is really just the beginning for this platform, as students will be able to explore their interests in a number of diverse online learning activities,” said Kirby Callam, project director of EvanSTEM. “We’ll link these with their accomplishments in out-of-school programs so they can begin building a portfolio of achievements, skills, and competencies to take with them into high school and beyond.”

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