By Allison Caravella ’17

At the end of my freshman year at Brewster, I was faced with the decision of which elective to take. I always try to push myself out of my comfort zone and try something new. As a ninth grader, I chose computer graphics, which introduced me to Photoshop and Final Cut Pro: two powerful (and very useful) programs that were alien to me. At the end of the class I had learned some great new skills that I’ve actually used for many school projects. So there I was, sitting at my computer and debating. One option that I kept coming back to was an introduction to computer programming. It was something completely new. At that time, I didn’t really know what I was in for, and as I would be part of the first modern computer programming class here at Brewster, there wasn’t anyone to give a recommendation.

Flash forward to sophomore year. There were six of us in this inaugural course, and our teacher Mr. Matchett. On the first day we were introduced to Codecademy, the program that we would be learning from, and told that we could go at our own pace. Codecademy is a website that teaches users languages of code like Javascript and markup languages (for creating text) like HTML and CSS. One of the best things about it was that everyone in the class worked at a different speed in the Codecademy lessons, but if we needed help we could put our heads together.

To lay the basic groundwork we started off with an introduction to HTML and CSS. Through this, the six of us began to see how web layouts were created. We learned about syntax and the critical importance of spelling things correctly as just one wrong letter can fail the entire code. Next we were on to Javascript. It was about three quarters through this unit that I found myself struggling. I also really began to appreciate every website I went to! Even creating a simple drop down menu from a homepage has many steps. With help from my classmates, and debugging websites like DirtyMarkup, I was able to work through Javascript and move on. The last thing that we did through Codecademy was jQuery, which is a library of Javascript that makes website interaction easier. Everything that we learned went hand in hand and I was surprised as to just how intertwined the languages are. At the end of the winter trimester, I had learned the basic skills of each of the units. That was the goal after all, to get our feet wet and lay a foundation for more in depth programming.

The skills that I learned through Codecademy allowed me to complete the various course projects. On one occasion, we were assigned to take Jeopardy questions from an online database and create a spreadsheet with them. With the program TextWrangler, we used what we had learned from Codecademy and separated the information into air date, category of question, answer, and point amount. The conclusion of that project was one of the biggest senses of accomplishments that I had during my sophomore year.

As for the spring trimester, things took a bit of a turn. Instead of focusing solely on Codecademy and our Moodle projects, the class learned about a program called GameSalad, which allows users to put together parts and make their own game. When downloaded, GameSalad takes you through a tutorial to create a battleship game. Using the graphics provided, you could choose the appearance of everything in your game. Every background, every character, and even things like the lasers that were shot during the game are called actors. In order to make things happen in GameSalad, you would have to assign positions, actions, and consequences to every actor in the game. In the end, I learned just how time-consuming it is to put together a game, and I had most of the components provided for me! I ended up creating a question game in order to review for my AP U.S. History exam.

I’ve learned so much about programming, even though I’ve barely scratched the surface. There’s so much to learn, and so many practical uses. I think it was a valuable experience, and one that many high schoolers don’t get to have. In the future, I would love to have a chance to learn more, and I look forward to passing on my experience to other students.