CCPS holds computer sci­ence demon­stra­tion

Na­tional Sci­ence Foun­da­tion vis­its to see how tech­nol­ogy is used

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

From ro­bot­ics to cus­tomiz­ing games to cre­at­ing an­i­mated movies, Charles County Pub­lic Schools is pro­vid­ing computer pro­gram­ming op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents of all grade lev­els.

Pro­gram­ming in­struc­tion at el­e­men­tary, mid­dle and high school grade lev­els was on dis­play for mem­bers of school board mem­bers, com­mu­nity lead­ers and the Na­tional Sci­ence Foun­da­tion dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion Thurs­day at North Point High School.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Kim­berly Hill said the NSF has pro­vided fi­nan­cial and cur­ricu­lum sup­port to the school sys­tem, and Thurs­day’s event was a way to show­case how CCPS has been pro­mot­ing computer pro­gram­ming, or cod­ing.

“We cre­ated this cou­ple-hours event to show off what we are do­ing with computer sci­ence in Charles County,” Hill said.

The White House “Computer Sci­ence for All” ini­tia­tive, or “CS for All,” calls for the NSF and the Cor­po­ra­tion for Na­tional and Com­mu­nity Ser­vice to make $135 mil­lion in computer sci­ence fund­ing avail­able this year, ac­cord­ing to

a press re­lease from the White House web­site.

“We have heard about the work here [in Charles County], so to be able to come here and meet with stu­dents and talk with peo­ple who are en­gag­ing in computer sci­ence in very “‘fron­tier-ish’ ways, we’re de­lighted,” said Joan Fer­rini-Mundy, NSF direc­tor for ed­u­ca­tion and hu­man re­sources. “What we’re most ex­cited about is to see a very com­plex school dis­trict be­ing able to make progress in this key area.”

The school sys­tem also uti­lizes ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als through a part­ner­ship with Code.Org, a na­tional ed­u­ca­tional non­profit pro­mot­ing computer sci­ence ed­u­ca­tion.

Stu­dents from Dr. James Craik El­e­men­tary School demon­strated how they pro­gram sim­ple com­mands or al­go­rithms into ro­bots, called “Bee Bots,” to di­rect their move­ments.

“It teaches co­op­er­a­tive learn­ing skills, prob­lem solv­ing tech­nique, and it also in­cor­po­rates our cur­ricu­lum, and can be used to teach sev­eral sub­jects,” Craik first grade teacher Michelle Si­mone said. “They think of it as learn­ing a game, while I think of it as an in­for­mal as­sess­ment.”

Stu­dents from Wal­ter J. Mitchell El­e­men­tary “de­bugged” lines of di­rec­tion code to cre­ate the de­sired shapes us­ing cups.

Mid­dle school stu­dents from Ben­jamin Stod­dert and Mil­ton Somers demon­strated how to cus­tomize games us­ing the StarLogo Nova plat­form.

“Go­ing into mid­dle school math and sci­ence and cod­ing seemed like a boy­ish thing, all male dom­i­nated, but af­ter sev­enth grade sci­ence class last year we all got in­ter­ested in it,” Somers eighth grader Bri­anna High said.

North Point and St. Charles high school stu­dents demon­strated ways in which they used pro­gram­ming to cre­ate orig­i­nal videos.

St. Charles stu­dent Robert Smith said cod­ing turned out to be eas­ier than he thought once he got started.

“It re­ally made me re­al­ize that ev­ery­one can pro­gram, and not just smart peo­ple like Al­bert Einstein,” Smith said.

St. Charles stu­dent Kather­ine O’Meara said she was sur­prised by how long it takes to pro­gram.

“It’s def­i­nitely a lot of work, it takes a lot of time,” O’Meara said. “It sur­prised me be­cause they come out with new apps like every week.”

O’Meara said she would ad­vise other stu­dents to study pro­gram­ming.

“Pro­gram­ming will help ev­ery­one, no mat­ter what job they want,” O’Meara said.

James Kurose, as­sis­tant direc­tor of NSF for computer sci­ence and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, said it was an “awe­some” ex­pe­ri­ence to see how school sys­tem is teach­ing computer sci­ence.

“It’s so clear how fully in­te­grated com­pu­ta­tional think­ing is across the cur­ricu­lum here, from first grade on up into high school. It’s re­ally im­pres­sive,” Kurose said. “When we say ‘CS for All’, ‘for all’ is the re­ally im­por­tant part. It’s ‘for all’ from [kinder­garten] through high school, the whole spec­trum, and it is so great to see the liv­ing em­bod­i­ment of ‘CS for All’ here within school, and within all the stu­dents we met and all the projects we’ve been see­ing.”

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Wal­ter J. Mitchell El­e­men­tary School fourth graders Kira Hubler and Pa­trick Her­nan­dez fol­low in­struc­tions to build a tower of cups in or­der to “de­bug,” or find the er­rors in the in­struc­tions. Charles County Pub­lic Schools demon­strated computer sci­ence in­struc­tion dur­ing a visit Thurs­day by the Na­tional Sci­ence Foun­da­tion.

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