Six days per week our Lufkin HS Robotics team meets to design, build, program and learn for their FIRST robotics competition in April. Many of these kids, first time members of the team, are learning in ways that they probably could not have envisioned without this experience.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve met countless alumni robotics team members who have taken their experiences into engineering and computer science majors in college, most of which would not have been possible without competing in FIRST robotics, as my community…like many, did not offer computer science as a choice and when we did, it was difficult to fill the seats with students who honestly wanted to take the course beyond beginning programming or competitive programming for UIL competition.
This, of course, has led to much more in depth discussions centering on purpose and how computer science can be used to solve real problems. We’ve also had to ask ourselves how we are giving students the experience and opportunity to design and create apps centered on their interest or community impact.
To change the scope of thought around CS, we are having to rethink our own course plans for future growth. We hope that with an increased emphasis on computational thinking in core curriculum and an increase in open CS experiences, that we will change that. During CSEdWeek, I attended the White House Launch and at that meeting, heard about the new NSF funded, Computer Science Principles Course. I forwarded the information to our CS teacher as the training opportunity from that would be amazing. He responded with the link to the course that he’s excited about, one that happens to be listed within the frameworks of the CS Principles Course, Mobile CSP. We’re definitely on the same page and that’s refreshing!
We have much work to do in developing our HS courses over time and as the interest of our students increases (Thanks in large part to Hour of Code and after school coding clubs)…We recognize the importance of growing our course offerings to not only meet the state requirements of the STEM designation but our student interest as it is most certainly there.
Just to give a bit of perspective, February 11th, we’ll engage in a district-wide STEM day for our entire 4th grade class and as the keynote speaker of that event, I will certainly be talking about computer science while also providing hands on experiences centered on “making”. (Squishy circuits, Little Bits, Minecraft, Makey makey, Coding)
A few days after, our grades 3-5 teachers will enjoy a day with code.org affiliates as we move forward with the inclusion of algorithmic thinking and coding into student creations in the upcoming school year and beyond.
This summer, we’re offering coding and robotics as a camp for various grade levels with app development as one of our key areas. This camp will be created by members of our robotics team. It’s something that they have wanted to do for years and now they will. In addition, we are considering camps that focus on math exploration through a real world lens, science camp, media creation, Minecraft and of course a STEM/Maker camp. Moving forward, we hope that activities such as this can give students a new window into sharing what they love and are learning in truly unique ways.
Getting back to the present, with our Digital Ambassadors, we are looking at how we can bring makerspaces to the classroom. Our first experience will be tomorrow with a class of grades 1-2 multiage and I could not be more excited!!
On the menu? Minecraft, Little Bits and much more!
Our goals are simple.
We want kids to be curious. We want them to ask questions and we want them to be seekers of knowledge for no other reason than because they can’t breathe without doing it.
We want them to see that their zip code doesn’t limit their explorations and that the world is here for them to create it.
Every single kid.