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Teaching Coding to High School Students
Last year, the leadership of the Florence School District One began a discussion with the Discovery Place Education Studio (DPES) team, and they had a goal in mind. “We want to be a leader in South Carolina in teaching programming and coding to high school students.”
Florence convened an advisory panel of industry executives, representatives from higher education and district level leadership to look at 21st century career readiness standards. They asked, “What are employers looking for?” “How do we equip our students to meet the needs of the future?”
Ultimately, they determined they needed a four-year coding curriculum, taught in all of Florence’s high schools that would equip students with skills in programming language and computational thinking. They brought this issue to DPES and asked for support.
Using existing models for standards, the Ed Studio team set out to design a curriculum that would begin in the ninth grade and build sequentially over the course of a student’s high school career. Each year consists of four units plus a final project, and over the course of the curriculum, students work with a variety of programming languages. The program is highly interactive and gets the students involved in hands-on learning from the start.
“Our goal is to build computational thinking and create flexibility so that when the students graduate, they are ready for whatever the future throws at them,” said Doug Thompson, manager, professional Development at DPES.
“What are employers looking for?” “How do we equip our students to meet the needs of the future?”
Florence’s three high school computer science teachers partnered with the DPES team throughout the process. As the curriculum was developed, the teachers provided feedback about how it might work in the classroom, and the DPES team made revisions.
“It’s been a tremendous experience on all levels,” said Kelvin Wymbs, director of secondary education for Florence School District One. “The people who actually facilitate the course are getting to provide instant feedback and are impacting the development. We are not just creating a curriculum, but a curriculum that fits our organization and our students.”
Before finalizing the full program, the Florence educators participated in an intensive four-day professional development session. They were both taking the course and testing the curriculum. What is still not working? Where will we have challenges? The DPES team took the feedback and made final adjustments.
“We are preparing them with the skills they will need for 21st century jobs. It all starts here.”
Florence School District One will roll out the new coding program to the first group of ninth graders in January. Education Studio educators will provide support throughout the year as the program unfolds. And as these ninth graders are working their way through the designated programming path, the DPES team will be hard at work developing year two of the curriculum, which will be waiting for these students when they reach tenth grade.
“We are creating the mindset that our students can do anything and that they can compete on a worldwide level” Wymbs remarked. “We are preparing them with the skills they will need for 21st century jobs. It all starts here.”