With recent research showcasing the growing number of STEM-related jobs that will be available to our graduates in Indiana in the coming years, teaching computer science skills has become as important as teaching students how to read or do math. The state has recognized this importance by mandating that all schools incorporate computer science for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
As the career and STEM academy director for Barr-Reeve Community Schools, I helped our district integrate computer science into our K-12 students’ school days. Our program helps students develop essential skills for academic and professional success. I’ve learned a number of lessons along the way and hope districts across the nation can benefit from my experience.
When creating a computer science curriculum from scratch, don’t try to get ahead of yourself and do everything at once. Instead, focus on finding a buy-in wherever you can to get your foot in the door, and then look to gain supporters along the way. Once you can start proving the benefits of adding computer science concepts into your school’s curriculum, more support from teachers, parents, and the school board will naturally follow.
For example, since we first introduced computer science themes into our elementary schools, our middle school teachers are now noticing that their new students are seeking more problem-based learning that stems from their early introduction to computer science skills. Now, our middle school teachers are computer science advocates looking for ways to weave in more CS themes into all of their classes—because this is what their students are excited about.
Empowering your teachers
Our program uses our existing staff, who were not previously computer science teachers. As a result, we provided our teachers with the support and tools they needed to feel comfortable teaching a new subject. Our goal was to meet our teachers exactly where they were and then reassure them that there were no expectations for them to be experts in this subject matter. We were on a journey together that would be a continuous learning process.
For us, empowering and supporting our teachers has been about finding the right resources. When we found Codelicious, a provider of intuitive K-12 computer science curriculum, we were grateful for the support along the way.