BAY VIEW — Fifth-graders at Bay View Elementary School are gaining an understanding of economics through computers and coding.
With help from a large cartoon eyeball, the students in Todd Hausman’s class are learning to use computer code to change colors — making the eye’s pupil, lid and cornea go from green to fuchsia to aqua.
“I like that you get to change it and make it whatever you want,” said 10-year-old Corbin Wenker. “Whenever I can, I’m always practicing.”
Using a small portable computer called a Raspberry Pi, the students will soon learn how to change fonts, sizes and shapes on the websites they create, and learn why aesthetics matter.
“Life is no longer about Word and Excel,” said Jacob Deschenes, who volunteers with Hausman’s class twice a week to help the kids with their projects.
Many students see building a website as a key to their future.
“It helps us learn how to code, in case we need to know as a grown-up for our jobs,” said 11-year-old Emma Herzog. “I’ve always wondered what it’s like to make a website.”
It’s a lesson Deschenes, a Bellingham-based financial adviser, knows all too well.
“When I started my business three years ago ... I didn’t have the skills (to make a website),” he said.
Instead of paying for a costly website, Deschenes turned to the Raspberry Pi device to easily build his own.
Once kids learn the basics, he said, they could easily make their own websites, too.
“It’s like any other foreign language,” he said. “If you learn it early, it’s easier when you’re older.”
The Raspberry Pi devices were purchased for the school through the Bellingham-based Social Alliance for a Vibrant Economy (SAVE) organization, of which Hausman is a founding member.
Over the course of about 10 weeks, the students are learning not only what it’s like to build a website, but to have that website provide a service.
“We wanted them to have that experience of knowing what it was like to be providing a service,” Hausman said. “We wanted them to see themselves as producers. It’s not just a consumer culture we live in, we need producers and entrepreneurs.”
In this case, the students’ client is the Burlington Chamber of Commerce.
“They’re taking the project from A to Z,” said Linda Jones, the chamber’s president and CEO. “At the same time, we were able to teach them the basics of economics.”
Chamber staff have visited the class to explain what a chamber of commerce does, and how it benefits the community, Jones said.
“They understood the role of the chamber of commerce in the economic cycle that supports a city,” she said. “They saw how it helps the city, helps the businesses, helps the infrastructure grow and improve, and how we can all be more successful by working together.”
When the projects are done, chamber staff will evaluate the students, as any client would.
“We support anything that will get kids to learn an area that could be a career for them,” Jones said. “It gives them the opportunity to see what this career would be like. By actually getting to do it with an actual company, they’re going to lean a whole lot more.”
The project aligns with new state standards in economics, Hausman said.
“It’s really just about trying to teach as many economic principles (through this) as possible,” he said. “They have the creative potential to influence the community and the world.”