App Camp Helps Kids Create,Learn about Next Wave of Learning

A group of Everett middle schoolers spent last week in an innovative camp.

The camp had no tents; nor was there any campfires.

In fact, it was located in a computer lab, and instead of s’more’s, the kids were creating apps.

App Camp took place at Everett High School last week under the supervision of UMass Lowell Professor Fred Martin and Everett teachers Denise Salemi and Dawn Munro.

About 25 or so seventh and eighth graders from the City’s middle school gathered at the Everett High School computer lab to create computer apps that will be used at the Farmer’s Market.

Some of the apps are for children and consist of computer coloring sheets, while others are for all ages and inform consumers about the nutrition of certain fruits and vegetables.

“We created color pages for kids to learn about fruits and vegetables,” said Elmer Sandoval, a seventh grader. “The kids can choose what color they want to make the fruits by touching the screen, and every time you shake the computer, it says something like ‘Eat Your Fruits,’ or ‘Kids Love the Ice Cream Man.’”

The effort is supported by a federal grant that is running for three years in Everett and Medford – coordinated by Tri-Tech. The program is at the end of the first year. The two components include having a class within the school year, which Salemi and Munro have taught all last year.

The second part includes a one-week camp for the students to learn from a college professor about coding and building apps.

Eventually, when the grant runs out, the class and camp will be folded permanently into the Everett Schools curriculum.

“We taught the class all year,” said Salemi. “They learned the basics and now this summer they’re going much further beyond what we taught them. Plus, they’re helping the community with what they’re creating…We also have a lot of girls attending, which is good because it can be intimidating for girls to be in the technology classes.”

As professor Martin looked over the shoulder of the students last week, he commented in similar terms – saying he was excited to see so many girls in attendance.

“Particularly for girls, they often don’t get the message that computing and creating apps is for them,” he said. “That’s why it’s important it’s part of the school experience. Some kids love it and they will only know that if they try it.”

Two girls in the program, Ngoc Nguyen and Melisa Demaku – both going into eighth grade, said they loved creating apps because it’s a challenge. The two had teamed up to make an app to help with face painting at the Farmer’s Market.

“I like doing it because it’s a challenge,” said Demaku. “It’s like math, and I love math. Both of us want to be teachers, so I don’t know

Seventh graders Elmer Sandoval and Jason Matute show off the coloring app they created for kids attending the Farmer’s Market.

Seventh graders Elmer Sandoval and Jason Matute show off the coloring app they created for kids attending the Farmer’s Market.

if this will be something we do as a career. Maybe, though, it could be helpful for us in teaching.”

Martin said kids need to know the language of computers these day, as more and more is being done with apps, and those who know how to create apps can unlock many doors in their careers.

“Even if you have a career that is in a totally different area, it just might require a little bit of computing,” he said. “Plus, you never know what your career path will take. Not every kid wants to major in computer science, but some could minor in it or take a couple of classes. They may be able to use this in whatever career they end up in.”

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