HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Many Harrison County students are learning about robotics, coding and cyber security starting at the age of nine. So the video games of the future could be designed by those fourth graders. The school district is part of a three-year pilot program that introduces Mississippi children to computer science technology.
"I was very excited about it and my kids were excited. It gives them the opportunity to learn how to code, learn how to type, and also become more critical thinkers," said Crossroads Elementary Science Teacher Ranae Smiles.
Through a grant from the state Department of Education, 23 fourth grade science teachers from all the elementary schools and three high school teachers went through training over the summer.
"We're the fourth largest district in the state, so it only stands to reason that we better hit it big the first year. We had to pick one grade, so we thought, let's start with fourth graders," said Harrison County Schools Curriculum Director Sherry Washburn.
So, every fourth grader in the district is learning about programming, cyber security, web design, data analysis, and robotics. La'Nia Riley helped build a "Bristle Bot" that can pick up eraser shavings.
"It's pretty fun and cool. We learn stuff, but they make it fun and make you want to do it and take it to the next level," said La'Nia.
By the end of the year, the students should be able to program a robot and create their own app. The teachers believe preparing their students for high-demand jobs starts as early as possible.
"You have doctors, lawyers, you have even the guy who created Facebook, he used computer science. And that's what I like about it, because it relates to real life," said Smiles.
The school district plans to offer the "Computer Science in Mississippi" program to all elementary students next year, then expand it to the middle school the third year.