Elementary Students Can’t Wait to Get to Computer Science Class

Beth Sommers is the curriculum integration and extended learning coordinator at Greenland Central School in Greenland, New Hampshire. She won the New Hampshire "STEM Excellence in Teaching" award in May 2016.

In July 2015, New Hampshire Gov. Hassan charged her newly created STEM Education Task Force with implementing eight recommendations outlining how New Hampshire schools and students can be more competitive. The first recommendation, “Math and Coding: Pathways for STEM Success,” places an increased emphasis on computer coding to enable students to gain 21st-century math and science literacy skills. It advises that schools wanting to enhance logical-thinking skills do so by introducing coding into the curricula for all grades, K-12. 

When implementing STEM education at our school, Greenland Central School, we began by infusing our science units with research-based engineering design challenges. In an effort to expand our STEM program and offerings, our school partnered in August 2016 with Project Lead The Way (PLTW) due to its identification as a highly effective STEM program. I participated in the Professional Development and was thoroughly impressed with PLTW Launch's STEM-enriched content, computer science-focused modules, and use of highly motivating, technology-driven tools. 

Last month, I began implementing PLTW Launch at our K-8 school by teaching the Programming Patterns computer science-focused module to my 3rd grade math enrichment students and the Input/Output: Computer Systems computer science-focused module to my 4th grade math enrichment students.

We are loving these experiences! In the past, I used to go to each classroom to pull out my students for math. Now, they show up in my classroom independently and early because they can't wait to get hold of the iPads to work on their Hopscotch and Tynker projects! At the beginning of both these modules, I led the instruction and showed the students how to use Canvas to access PLTW and the recommended apps. It didn't take long for them to get way ahead of me in their coding tasks and figure out what to do next. I was clearly just a guide on the side who soon began learning from them! I'm truly amazed at how enthusiastic both sets of students have been to learn computer science concepts. They've been totally fearless!

PLTW is enabling me to engage our students in creative and meaningful ways while also meeting Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and technology standards. The computer science-focused modules and emphasis on computational thinking are developing our students' problem-solving skills, logical-reasoning skills, and perseverance as they use their computers to test their ideas.

In summary, PLTW Launch's computer science modules in grades 3 and 4 are helping to develop critical computational-thinking practices. These experiences are enabling our students to gain the critical 21st-century math and science literacy skills highlighted in the first recommendation of the New Hampshire STEM Education Task Force’s report. The progression and difficulty level of the projects in PLTW Launch will allow our students to develop competency as they explore engaging and key computer science topics. To nurture these valuable skills, we need to give our students multiple opportunities and entry points to design, create, and innovate with digital tools. PLTW Launch resources are helping us do this with their user-friendly, student-centered, and highly engaging computer science modules. I can't wait to begin implementing additional modules!

PLTW’s blog is intended to serve as a forum for ideas and perspectives from across our network. The opinions expressed are those of each guest author.