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Minnetonka schools teach K-5 students computer coding

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Students in Minnetonka as young as 5 years old are the first in Minnesota to learn about computer programming during their regular school day.

The Minnetonka School District has added computer coding to its elementary school curriculum in an effort to increase its students' knowledge of technology, KSTP reports.

The curriculum, called Tonka<codes>, will introduce all students to the language of computer programming, according to the Minnetonka School District.

"Computer programming skills have become essential to the success of our students. Not because they will all program computers, but because our students need to understand the science behind the digital devices that are such an important part of our modern world. They need to create technology, not just consume it."

This curriculum is the first of its kind in the state of Minnesota. School officials noted that even while the demand for computer programming skills in the workplace is increasing, there are few opportunities for students to learn these skills in public schools across the country.

Coding is essentially using digits and figures to tell a computer or piece of software what to do. By learning to code, you can build a website, app or computer game, or understand why your favorite online site looks and acts the way it does.

Even the youngest students in Minnetonka will being learning those skills by working with "beebots," which are tiny robots that they can program with instructions.

"The skills for coding teach more than just coding," Kirsten Lunzer, a Spanish teacher at Deephaven Elementary School, told KSTP. "They teach a form of problem-solving that really helps our kids be better equipped at solving problems in all areas of their lives, and it teaches great persistence."

The district says it was inspired to start the coding curriculum by a nationwide nonprofit group, code.org, which features high-profile technology stars like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg encouraging more schools to teach computer programming. Here's a video the group recently produced:

The push to teach computer programming to more people has been gaining steam in the Twin Cities metro area for a while, albeit outside the public school system. A number of organizations already offer free coding and programming classes for young people.

Among them are:

And just recently, the city of Minneapolis announced it would offer a coding "bootcamp" next summer, aimed at adults in the job market who want to learn those new skills.

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