Operation Breakthrough's youngest students learn computer programming to encourage interest in STEM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – At Operation Breakthrough, students as young as 3 years old are learning basic computer programming.

Yes, you read that right!

Leaders are hoping to implement more activities related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, for children at an early age to provide a holistic approach to learning.

“It involves their creativity, becoming critical thinkers, you know sometimes we pose a problem other times, kids will work and learn a skill,” Operation Breakthrough President Mary Esselman said.

Here in the SmartLab, which was created a year ago and the MakerSpace, created three years ago, students as young as three and four years old participate in activities related to the STEM field.

"You have a hacking bench back here, which you saw where kids are really getting messy with things, they're taking apart, figuring out how they work so then they can start creating their own versions, maybe a better version or just trying to figure out how to put it back together," Esselman said. 

Did we mention these young students are coding too?

A coding program allows students to learn how the process works. Four-year-old Michael was coding and was able to figure out the process.

“I did that,” he said.

Esselman says the results of the student growth is seen beyond the classroom walls.

“The last two years, we've actually sent over 90 percent of the kids ready for kindergarten and that's compared to a national average of less than 50 percent for kids in poverty,” Esselman said.

70 percent of the families the organization serves lives at about 50 percent of the poverty line.

“What we're trying to say is it doesn't matter what your zip code is or what's happening, you know every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential,” Esselman said.

Through communication, collaboration and critical thinking, these young students are preparing for their futures, while still being a kid and having fun.

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