03/27/2015 01:32 EDT | Updated 05/27/2015 05:59 EDT

Code Studio, a free learning tool, allows Courtenay school to teach kids to code

An elementary school in Courtenay, B.C. is teaching kids computer programming code by using a free online learning tool.

"I'd love to see every teacher doing it," said Kyle Timms, the principal at Courtenay Elementary School.

In 2013, U.K. schools made it mandatory to teach coding to children as young as 5 years old. The new course is an effort to update the country's computer science curriculum and fill job skills gaps in the growing technology sector.

Coding is not currently in the B.C. curriculum, but a new curriculum is in development.

Timms said his school's new program started last year when one of the teachers tried out a free online program called Hour of Code with her Grade 4/5 class.

"She had a lot of success, the kids were really engaged," said Timms.

The following year, the school decided to expand the program, this time using Code Studio, another online tool.

"It's free, which obviously appeals to me as I'm dealing with school budgets, but it also allows the teacher to track every kid," said Timms.

The program works similarly to Minecraft, a popular computer game that gets users to build structures by working with blocks that they move around on the screen.

Code Studio also allows kids to work through the lessons at their own pace. Timms says more advanced students have gone as far as to learn JavaScript on their own.

"With an individualized program for kids, they get to challenge themselves," he said.

Timms said the program is easy to use — for students and teachers alike. Most teachers don't learn how to teach coding in their teacher training programs.

"The nice thing about this program is you really don't have to know how to code in order to teach the kids how to," said Timms.

He said the program has become so popular, some teachers have built in additional coding time into their classes.

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Vancouver Island elementary school teaching kids to code