In today’s education space, it’s hard to have a discussion without the acronym STEM or STEAM being injected. And whichever side of the debate you fall on – including Arts in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics grouping, or not – all would agree that an emphasis on teaching students the basics of programming across all grade levels is moving toward broad adoption by schools. Challenges to adoption are introduced, particularly at lower elementary levels, where teachers already span multiple disciplines and may not have confidence to teach areas with heavy technical emphasis.
Code.org recently released a new K-5 Computer Science curriculum to help with this need. The Computer Science Fundamentals Courses A-F includes interactive graphical lessons in the Blocky coding environment, an offshoot of MIT’s popular Scratch environment. Lessons start with pre-readers manipulating arrow icons to build a set of commands which moves a popular Angry Bird character to pounce on the enemy Pig character. In the process, kids are improving critical thinking skills and learning coding concepts such as algorithms (a fancy word for instructions), sequencing, conditionals, and functions.
But the curriculum is not all about online lessons. There are a long list of “unplugged” activities for teaching these same concepts. From planting a seed to binary bracelets to songwriting, the unplugged activities are geared to get students out of their seats and using coding skills in concrete ways. The entire curriculum, included detailed lesson plans for the unplugged activities, is available in this 350 page PDF document.
Code.org doesn’t stop there, however. The most exciting piece of the puzzle for teachers is the excellent professional development resources available for those who want to learn to teach computer science with this curriculum. They offer free one day workshops for K-5 teachers which …
‘provide an intro to computer science, pedagogy, overview of the online curriculum, teacher dashboard, and strategies for teaching “unplugged” classroom activities’
If you cannot make it to a workshop, they offer the same concepts in an online self-paced course. Teachers not only learn the basics of Computer Science, but they also get to test drive the online programming modules that the students will experience. And, if your enquiring mind is wondering, yes, there are Angry Birds for teachers too!!
What better way to STEAM into the new school year than with the free resources from Code.org.