CCPS holds computer science demonstration
National Science Foundation visits to see how technology is used
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.”
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.