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Coding Is for Everyone! Authentic Learning Experiences for the Elementary Classroom

Pennsylvania Convention Center, 126A

Participate and share: Interactive session
Recorded Session
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STEM Teacher
State College Area
Kristen Strong Albright is a K-5 STEM teacher for the State College Area School District. She has been a cllassroom teacher, librarian, gifted teacher, and technology coach. She is a National Board Certified Teacher. In 2017, Ms. Albright was awarded the Innovative Teacher of the Year award by the PSBO. Kristen Strong Albright was named PAECT's Outstanding Teacher of the Year for 2021, and she has served as the PAECT Regional Director for the North Central Region. Ms. Albright has presented at ISTE, FETC, KTI, and PAECT, and was a featured speaker in Ghana, Africa at the Tarkwa Teacher Symposium.
Elementary STEM Teacher
State College Area School District
Tara Pollick is a K-5 STEM teacher for the State College Area School District. She has 15 years of experience in elementary education as a general education teacher and STEM teacher. Tara Pollick was selected in 2019 as a Keystone Technology Innovator. Ms. Pollick has presented at PAECT and the NAPDS conference.

Session description

How do we make meaningful connections between coding and our curriculum? We'll explore the successes and challenges of meeting the needs of all students with a variety of tools. including, Scratch, SAM Labs, Ozobots and more. We'll also share budget-friendly options to make coding accessible to all students.

Purpose & objective

Educational challenges addressed include making coding instruction accessible to all learners, using low cost or free resources to address budget constraints and encouraging diverse individuals to enter STEM careers.

Tools shared in the presentation include, Scratch, and Scratch Jr. which are web based coding platforms. Beebots have on board programming options for young learners. Ozobots, SAM Labs, Microbit, and Sphero are entry level robotic tools that can be used at all grade levels with block based or text based coding. Tinkercad and 3D Printing use entry level CAD software with the option to use block based coding to create 3D designs.

Each tool has a lesson library available for teachers to use, which we will link in the presentation. We will also share our own successful projects using these tools. We will have an interactive part of our session where attendees can add their own resources and lesson ideas.

Through pre and post tests embedded in our curriculum, as well as student performance measures needed for grants, we have demonstrated that these tools have increased student vocabulary and understanding of coding concepts by 80% or more.

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Presentation - 35 minutes
*Explore the rationale behind coding instruction in elementary as well as cross curricular connections
*Rationale for the need for opportunities for diverse learners:
-Students with disabilities
-Gifted students
-Representation of multiple ethnicities
*Overview of coding websites and robots with examples of how to use in the elementary setting
-Scratch and Scratch Jr.
-SAM Labs

Attendees will utilize Padlet throughout the presentation to add free resources and lesson ideas

Hands on exploration of tools from the presentation- 15 minutes

Revisit Padlet as a whole group to add additional resources and lesson ideas - 10 minutes

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Supporting research

Pollock, Mica, and Jonathan Gold. “Cracking the Code.” Learning for Justice,
“Making Coding More Diverse.” Digital Source, 13 Jan. 2022,
Team, Sphero. “Six Ways Coding, Computer Science & Robots Empower Children with Autism.” Coding, Computer Science & Robots for Kids with Autism | Sphero Blog, Sphero, 24 Mar. 2021,
Teaching Computational Thinking to English Learners - NSF.

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Session specifications

Computer science & computational thinking
Grade level:
Skill level:
Coaches, Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers
Attendee devices:
Devices required
Attendee device specification:
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials:
Suggested accounts include and Scratch or CS First.
Subject area:
Computer science, STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards:
For Students:
Empowered Learner
  • Students understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies.
Innovative Designer
  • Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.
Computational Thinker
  • Students understand how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions.