Grade five students from St. Justin Martyr Catholic School in Markham, Roy Halog and Adrian di Paolas (left to right), showcase their game The Cross and the Sword. Photo by Evan Boudreau

Pilot project turns young students into game programmers

By 
  • June 22, 2016

TORONTO – Two of the province’s youngest computer programmers have completed a game they hope will make Christianity cool in the eyes of their peers. 

“Lots of people don’t like the Christian faith and think that it is silly,” said 10-year-old Adrian di Paolas. “So I wanted to put it into something cool like a video game just to raise awareness about the Christian faith. And now that there’s a video game about Christianity hopefully less people will think (faith) is uncool.” 

Di Paolas developed the game along with Roy Halog, also 10, as part of their Grade 5 social studies class at St. Justin Martyr Catholic School in Markham, Ont. They spent about 15 to 20 hours a week for one month working on the project in-class and after school. 

Titled The Cross and The Sword, the game, which is based on historic events, follows the 16th-century Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan as he brings Christianity to the Philippines against resistance from Chief Lapu-Lapu. It consists of two stages with three levels in each. 

The young programmers’ class was one of about 175 in the province that joined a pilot project with The Learning Partnership, a not-for-profit organization that supports educators as they meet the increasing demand for specialization in learning. 

On June 16 about 300 of the more than 4,500 who developed a game as part of the project gathered in downtown Toronto at the MaRS Discovery District to showcase their work.  

“It feels great that we are finally presenting it,” said Halog in a room booming with children’s voices and eight-bit sounds. “It is finally done and now we can play our own game. It feels great.” 

He said it was inspiring to see so many other games developed by students in Grades 4, 5 and 6. 

“It was really fun to get to try other people’s games and see other people’s ideas.” 

The boys’ teacher, Dave Arbour, said being part of the project and seeing so many young coders in one place with their completed projects has him excited for the future. 

“I am very excited to see what these kids will do later on in life if they are already doing these incredible things now,” said Arbour. 

“What we do is advance and support public education,” said Jan Courtin, national director of student programs with The Learning Partnership. “Whatever might be current or pertinent to shaping our kids so that when they graduate they can really contribute to our economy as producing citizens, we shape programs that would answer that need.” 

Thanks to The Learning Partnership what Halog and thousands of others might be producing in the future is more video games. 

“It is really cool that we got to learn lots of coding. If we want to create games when we grown up now we know how to do it,” Halog said. 

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