Middle School Computer Science: An Eye-Opening Experience

Lisa Muggeo is a PLTW Gateway Teacher at College Park Middle School in Ladson, South Carolina. Lisa has credits in Automation and Robotics (AR), Design and Modeling (DM), Green Architecture (GA), Magic of Electrons (ME), Science of Technology (ST), Flight and Space (FS), and Energy and the Environment (EE). Lisa is a Google Certified Educator Level 1, BEC Grant Winner 2016, and VEX Robotics/Lego Robotics/CyberPatriot/Google CS First Mentor.

Being new to my school, teaching computer science has helped me to cultivate a relationship with my students as well as build a name for our PLTW Gateway program. The level of student engagement has completely changed our dynamic in and out of the classroom. 

For instance, students previously did not have many after-school choices and opportunities to pursue interests outside of athletics. However, having begun the PLTW Gateway computer science curriculum, I now have students participating in a CyberPatriot club and a Google CS First club. We are also hosting a community coding evening.

The best part of all is that I have students asking to stay in the PLTW Gateway class next semester! They want to continue to grow and learn about this vast topic, and luckily, there is more than enough information for them to continue on their journey of discovery! I have students requesting to come in early or asking to stay after school to continue to troubleshoot and work on assignments. I am thrilled to see the work ethic and determination from students who were otherwise unsure of their interests, due to lack of exposure. Their excitement is all the encouragement needed to continue to provide these opportunities. 

Also, we've had mentors come into the classroom to teach students and speak with them about their profession. Now students realize there are other pathways to successful, well-paying careers that may even offer the opportunity of higher education. Introducing students to professional mentors provides insight into how many different areas of our lives have something to do with computer science.

Furthermore, students have been able to see the application of these CS skills when they create apps using MIT App Inventor. The immediate result of testing is also a great tool for the middle school student when troubleshooting.

These students are no longer just digital consumers but are also producers, and they know this knowledge can be used in many facets of viable career paths. They now have many opportunities in front of them to explore on their way into high school, and their future prospects have expanded. With the implementation of computer science, I have been able to extend my reach for students interested in STEM fields. It is no longer students who solely like to design and build using hand tools or those students who want to build robots. Computer science has allowed me to open up an entirely new world of engineering to students that was otherwise unknown. What more could I ask for as an educator?

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.