PA Grant Report: Training for Teaching STEM Fundamentals in the Upper School

October 15, 2018

Code.org has an extensive library of free resources that support teaching computer science to students of all ages (K-12). Last year, it was my go-to for creating the framework for the upper school’s first computer science elective course, STEM Fundamentals. To design the class, I pulled from various existing curricula, resources, and project ideas which included units on robotics, app building, augmented reality, coding, and game design. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is the foundation for any computer scientist. When I found out that Code.org offered professional development opportunities that could further enhance my teaching, I knew that I wanted to take advantage of them.

Thanks to the generous support of a Parents Association grant, in August I had the privilege of joining about 20 other computer science educators from across New York City and Long Island to participate in a five-day intensive workshop made possible by a partnership between Code.org and Code Interactive. Our cohort was a mix of teachers with a range of experience in teaching computer science, from first-timers to veterans of the subject. During the workshop, we were all trained to teach Code.org’s CS Principles course, which is designed to give an introduction into the basic concepts of computer science. During the workshop, we worked directly with the CS Principles curriculum. We immersed ourselves in the material and took turns playing the roles of both teacher and student to more fully understand the concepts from each perspective.

What I like most about Code.org’s methodology is that it closely aligns with our teaching methods here at MMFS. Students are asked to learn through doing hands-on work and to derive meaning for new vocabulary through a “discovery first” approach. There is also a great emphasis on educating students on the racial and gender gaps in the computer science field. During the workshop we brainstormed strategies to recruit underrepresented student groups into our classes. This year’s STEM class is double the size of last year’s and our first female student signed up! I am excited to integrate the Code.org curriculum more closely into the course throughout this year and to utilize their teaching methodologies and strategies.

~ Abby Flemming, US Educational Technology Integrator

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