News | Events

Coding whiz Mitchell gets creative at Hospital School

Monday 4 May 2020 in News from the Cancer Centre

Adapting to new ways of learning can be a big adjustment for anyone, but for Mitchell, 6, who enjoys coding and creating elaborate digital worlds using Minecraft, his adjustment was easy as he was able to explore this interest with his teacher from The Hospital School.

“I like playing games the best,” said Mitchell, a confident student in Year 1 being treated for Neuroblastoma in the Cancer Centre for Children. Games are a valuable resource for learning and practicing new skills, and he likes games to do with algorithms, or creating instructions, most of all.   

“When Mitchell started at The Hospital School Westmead, he expressed a keen interest in Minecraft,” said Tracey Walker, his teacher. “This led to an activity and conversation around coding, sparking his curiosity to explore further.”

Tracey was able to design lessons for Mitchell, around his interest of coding, which supported his transition to learning in the hospital setting, and in developing a relationship with his new teacher. “He wrote algorithms for ‘secret pathways’ for others to solve and he even got some of our high school students involved and they wrote algorithms to each other. They sent problems to solve back and forth between the ward and classroom like pen-pals.”

The photo at the top of the page shows Mitchell in a Hospital School classroom, creating a challenge for the high school students to build a Minecraft character using the pieces he made using coded mathematical dimensions.

Mitchell programming a Bee-Bot and with his iPad on Minecraft

An aspect of these lessons involved learning to navigate Bee-Bots. These colourful floor robots, designed like bumblebees, were a favourite with Mitchell. He programmed the Bee-Bots with sequences of directional instructions, or algorithms, around courses such as shapes, enabling him to investigate and modify sequences.

“Hospital can get boring, but he likes Hospital School because it breaks up his day,” said his mother, Erin. “It gives him something interesting to do.”

Tracey teaches Mitchell at his bedside or in the hospital classroom. They have also had several sessions via Zoom with Coronavirus restricting face to face teaching. When Mitchell became an outpatient last week, she continued to coordinate his learning with his census (regular) school in Dubbo and his parents, always mindful of his wellbeing as chemotherapy can make him a little tired or nauseous.

Mitchell likes Hospital School as it makes his day more interesting

“He likes maths and English, but he’s really into coding,” said Erin. “He’s been playing Minecraft for about 18 months and likes creating things. He builds big monuments, and sometimes turns them into houses. He puts in glass windows, stairs and fun things like treasure chests and trapdoors. He’s very clever.”

Tracey, as his teacher, has also seen him in action on the popular video game known for its pixelated building blocks and open-ended play. “I’ve never known a six-year old who can do Minecraft to the level that Mitchell can do it,” she said.

It is part of the practice at The Hospital School, to use children’s curiosities as a means to assess where they are at, and to develop further learning experiences. “Through this learning over several sessions, Mitchell developed his ability to think and express himself mathematically, while also creating an awareness of the influence he can have on others,” Tracey said.

Most students in NSW will resume schooling after the current holiday break using Zoom, Seesaw, or a similar conferencing platform and so are experiencing their education in a similar way to Mitchell, even though he is learning from two schools that work together at present. Social distancing has thrown up some challenges but there are still creative ways to engage in the coding lessons Mitchell loves, along with his other subjects, by telepresence (online conferencing).

The Hospital School Westmead is helping children stay connected to their learning, as prevention measures for Coronavirus evolve, using online conferencing such as Zoom. The classrooms will reopen soon. For the latest information see their website or Facebook page.

See the Cancer Centre for Children recommendations regarding children with cancer and siblings attending their census (regular) school in this Coronavirus update.


< Previous Next >

Share this:

sign up for latest news and updates