NORTHFIELD — On one screen, a pig jumped over cars and picked up apples as it returned to the farm it calls home. On another screen, a player was dodging an evil penguin on a quest to save the Arctic.
These scenes were just a few examples of games created by seventh-grade students from Pioneer Valley Regional School, who showed off their video game development and coding skills on Wednesday. The showcase was the culmination of a two and a half month computer science unit devoted to coding and programming.
“Across the country, the focus has been on teaching students to code,” said John Heffernan, the class teacher. “How can we keep coding? We think this will help.
During the unit, students learned the basics of coding and were able to freely create the game of their choice.
“It was really hard,” said college student Kallie Kratz, who made a game she described as a “kind of penguin version of Mario.” “It took me a few weeks. I had to invent all the characters and create the platforms.
Kallie said it was really fun making her game, although she doesn’t want to continue programming in the future.
“I’m still glad I got to do it,” Kallie said.
Nora Cutting, who created the game – titled ‘Lost and Found’ – about bringing home the pig, said coding the game was a great experience and it was nice to see her plans come to fruition.
“It was exciting,” Nora said, adding that it was “something for fun” because she also doesn’t want to be a video game designer in the future.
Jackson Glazier said he “didn’t know what to do” and came up with the idea for a platform game where the goal is to collect fried chicken.
“It was tough,” Jackson said, “but it all fell into place.”
Game coding, while fun, also provides the opportunity to develop the problem-solving skills needed to correct coding errors.
“Even if you don’t become a programmer, it should help you in many cases,” Heffernan said. “It helps people think in terms of algorithms” and sharpens “computational” thinking, which can apply to many aspects of life.
Heffernan said the process was a great experience for his students, and the game showcase was where kids could share what they’ve done and receive feedback on their creations.
“It’s rewarding” for the students, added Heffernan. “It’s a real audience and their peers can find out what they’ve done.”
Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.