Lincoln Elementary School Lions promotes digital literacy and cybersecurity

In light of North Dakota passing a bill requiring computer science and cybersecurity classes in elementary, middle and high schools, one Dickinson Elementary hosted a family coding night.

Lincoln Elementary.jpg
Lincoln Elementary School works to incorporate computer science activities for students and loved ones.
Allison Engstrom / The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON - Lincoln Elementary School has been hard at work leading the integration of computer science, STEM and cybersecurity into classrooms to prepare students for life beyond their hallways.

Their latest event was a family coding night which brought together parents, caregivers, siblings and students for a night full of coding. The coding night was an opportunity for students and loved ones to take an hour-long coding lesson together through a variety of puzzles varying in difficulty.

With over 250 participants, the turnout was almost unbelievable for moderator and DPS District Elementary Library Media Specialist Marisa Riesinger.

Family coding night at Lincoln Elementary hosts over 250 students and loved ones who enjoyed a coding lesson alongside refreshments.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Trustem.

While the school implements STEM days and other cyber opportunities, Riesinger felt there was a piece of the puzzle missing; family.

“One piece that we knew was missing was families and we wanted the parental engagement and family engagement with computer science, but then also to showcase what these kids are doing,” Riesinger said.


During the event, kids had the chance to become teachers to their parents as they swapped roles between the driver, the one in charge of the device, and the navigator, the one helping to problem solve.

“They were absolutely engaged. In fact, sometimes it was hard to pause and speak because they just didn't want to stop,” Riesinger laughed.

Riesenger taught the six big ideas of coding which include things like programming, repeat and loop, and sequencing just to name a few. Families were able to enjoy pizza and cookies while spending time together and those who reached all 20 puzzles received a certificate of achievement by the end of the night.

“The kids keep coming up and say ‘That was so much fun!’ and parents have actually gone home and shown the other parent who couldn't come what they're doing and now the families are working at home so that's just really amazing,” Riesinger said.

Students at Lincoln Elementary had the opportunity to teach their loved ones how to code during family coding night.
Photo courtesy of Marisa Riesinger.

For Riesinger, it's not about computers at all, but rather about the skills it takes to code such as problem-solving and critical thinking. Those two skills in particular are proving to be the biggest discrepancy between graduating high school students and working professionals according to Riesinger who has served on several community panels.

There is a huge age gap Riesinger said noting that current high school students all the way up to adults have missed opportunities like this. Although previous generations lack cyber education, North Dakota is working to change this for current and future generations.

“North Dakota is really leading the charge,” Riesinger said, “We were the first state in the nation to have computer science and cybersecurity standards.

Just this week North Dakota passed House Bill 1398 which requires elementary, middle, and high schools to teach computer science and cybersecurity classes. Riesinger feels fortunate that the state, governor, state superintendent, and legislators have seen how critical these things are and is looking forward to these changes.


With how quickly technology continues to advance, online privacy is an area that slips many people's minds. While we're putting devices in kids' hands as young as 3 or 4 years old we don't necessarily provide education on how to use them safely and responsibly Riesinger said.

“By the time students are old enough to sign up for an online account there are over 2000 images of them online,” Riesinger said.

Some kids have an online identity before they are even born due to people sharing things like ultrasounds or names and pictures without understanding the reality of their posts. With that in mind, Riesinger said that cybersecurity is imperative to teach and feels there is a collective responsibility to do so.

DPS district elementary library media specialist Marisa Riesinger (middle) hosted the family coding night and works to provide computer science opportunities to students.
Photo courtesy of Marisa Riesinger.

With the passing of the new bill and efforts like family coding nights or STEM days, as technology advances, digital literacy is becoming a key classroom component.

“We are math literacy, reading literacy, and digital literacy is just as important right now,” Riesinger said.

Riesinger was able to partner with a California-based company called Computer Sciences Fundamentals to get grants in hopes of doing a similar event but district-wide in the fall.

Allison is a news reporter from Phoenix, Arizona where she earned a degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. After college, she worked as a middle school writing teacher in the valley. She has made her way around the U.S. driving from Arizona to Minnesota and eventually finding herself here in Dickinson. She has a passion for storytelling and enjoys covering community news.
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