Students at Brooklyn Landmark Participate in Hackathon

Volunteers and students holding computers they designed at Brooklyn Landmark ES’s coding competition.

Gail McCoy headed off to the hackathon at Brooklyn Landmark Elementary School in Brownsville, Brooklyn on April 1 to assist her nine-year-old granddaughter — her namesake Gail — in the coding competition, but the tables turned. “The last thing she needed was my help, so I just sat back and listened because everything she said was tech wise and awesome,” said McCoy. “I nodded, smiled, encouraged and praised.”

Proud grandmother Gail McCoy with her granddaughter Gail Beckford.

Landmark is one of 28 UFT Community Learning Schools, all located in poor neighborhoods where children need and get extra educational services. “It was so exciting to see what they are able to do when given the opportunity,” says Colleen Cornwall-Lewis, a 5th-grade teacher. “Their deep thinking, creativity and excitement for this kind of learning just blew us all away.” Respect went out to the can-do adults, as well. “From four-year-olds to grandmothers, they learned in the morning, got into teams, decided what service could be provided or problem solved, made an app, honed their presentations and presented on stage to judges,” says Community School Director Kate Thomas “All in one day!” McCoy, a transitional counselor at Riker’s Island, said she came away with new knowledge. “I learned how to make an app,” she said. “I wasn’t even sure what an app was until then.”

Tech pros from the school, along with educational and digital nonprofits served as teachers and judges. Cornwall-Lewis’ own son Cameron stocked his app with paintings by artists whose work depicts the beauty of his beleaguered Brownsville. A 5th-grade group’s app paired homebound residents with middle schoolers ready to run their errands. The day’s winner was McCoy’s granddaughter, whose app would connect those who struggle with math with those who do not. “So many kids need help with math because math makes them unhappy,” said the 4th-grader, who wants to be a culinary chemist. “With this app, they will learn and then they don’t have to hide their report cards from their parents anymore.”