Starting in mid-June, a group of 6th-8th graders became deeply immersed in the world of microbits, algorithms, and variables.
These students devoted 4 hours a day, from Monday to Thursday, to a summer Computer Science class at Cal Hills High School.
Led by an initiative through the Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF), the course was a Pilot Program, which ran throughout Santa Clara County.
“We have 10 classes, and this is one of them,” said Rosemary Kamei, Vice President of Innovation for SVEF. “We hope this is something that will grow in the future. We’ve partnered with schools like Milpitas, Alum Rock, Oak Grove, Franklin Mckinley, and Orchard School…”
Just a week and a half before the 2018-2019 school year ended, MUSD put out the call to middle school students about the Computer Science class starting on June 17.
“And within 2 hours, it was full,” said Greg Barnes, MUSD’s Director of Secondary Education. Barnes had been overseeing many programs throughout the summer, and offering logistical support.
One hundred and 50 students applied for the course, but spots for only 20 were available.
And right from the beginning, the accepted students hit the ground running...
They started out the course by creating Micro Pets. Initially, they interviewed a partner to find out what that person wanted in a pet. Then they took that information and used coding to create the pet their partner had described. Each day, they added more functionality to the result.
At the end of the course, they broke up into groups and created a final project to showcase all they’ve learned over the past month.
Each project incorporated 3 microbits — square devices that act as tiny computers. The students learned how to code these devices, using chromebooks. In doing so, they were able to create all kinds of fun, stimulating projects, like alarms, a golf course obstacle course, and even a dancing inchworm!
“I'm thrilled that we were able to partner with SVEF in providing our students with this computer science experience!” said Superintendent Cheryl Jordan. “At its meeting on May 28, 2019, the Board passed our Resolution to implement CA K-12 Computer Science Standards, and this is one example of our action steps in this initiative.”
Joy Brawn, who had been teaching the course, said she was thrilled about how things had gone over the past several weeks: “I’ve really loved it,” said Brawn. “It was an awesome class.” Brawn is a teacher at Westmont High School for the Campbell Union High School District, where she teaches Biology.
All the students had nothing but positive things to say about their time in the program. Many of them expressed how fun it was to learn how to make things they once never knew were possible for them to create.
The Computer Science course aligns to state and national standards for Computer Science. All the students who took part in this summer program have gained exposure to an educational pathway that simply wasn’t there before. An opportunity like this has the potential to awaken and deepen students’ passion for learning while propelling them toward inspired future careers.
MUSD is grateful to have been a part of this process, and extends a big thank you to the Silicon Valley Education Foundation for their partnership and support in helping to make this happen.