Students put away textbooks and take out iPads for coding workshops

Eddy Kennedy/CBC

Sarah Morris has made a diagram of the human digestive system. Touching buttons on the diagram, which is connected to a laptop, gives viewers information about the different parts of the system — and its creator is just 11 years old.

Sarah is one of many students across Newfoundland and Labrador learning about science and technology through a partnership between the provincial government and tech education group Brilliant Labs.

 "It was really fun because we got to learn about, like, math and science but in code," the 11-year-old from Vanier Elementary said Friday at an event held by the provincial government to tout its progress in its work to develop tech skills in students.

Sarah created her diagram using Makey Makey, an electronic invention tool that helps students create computer programs using basic objects.

Sarah said she enjoyed working with computers and iPads rather than a textbook and notepad.

"We were learning but also kind of like doing fun stuff," Sarah said.

Eight-year-old Davis Korden created stop-motion video using ScratchJr, which students can use to program short video stories on iPads.

"They're just fun to play with," Davis said.

We want our young people to be able to grow into the next generation of inventors, creators, researchers. - Jeff Wilson

Brilliant Labs in a non-profit organization that aims to teach children about coding, technology and science. The provincial government says the organization works with 65 per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador schools.

Jeff Wilson, the organization's executive director, says it's important to start educating children on these topics at a young age — and that's why the goal is to be in 100 per cent of schools next year.

"It's absolutely crucial for many reasons," Wilson said. "When [kids] are at that age, they're just sponges.… They're so passionate. I just spoke with a young student who's been working on a video game he's been coding for two years, and he's only in Grade 6.

"We want our young people to be able to grow into the next generation of inventors, creators, researchers."

Eddy Kennedy/CBC

Wilson said partnership with the provincial government, launched in April 2018, is crucial as the province begins to move further into the technology sector.

"Branches of government should be leading by example and working together in partnership," Wilson said. "We all bring certain expertise, and when we all come together and share those expertise for a common goal, which in this case is to empower young people, it's got to be win-win."

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