Computer Science for All

Computer Science for All at Branciforte Middle School
Posted on 02/11/2020
Computer Science students

Over the past few years teachers and students at B40 have been exploring various aspects of computer science in what could be surprising ways and places. While the school currently hosts exploratory coding classes during the school day and in after school programs, computer science is also popping up in other content area classes.  Through a “Computer Science for All” grant which is a collaboration between Santa Cruz City Schools (SCCS), the Santa Cruz Education Foundation, Research firm ETR from Scotts Valley, with additional researchers from Stanford University and the University of California Santa Cruz - we are working to demystify and spread computer science opportunities to all of our students and staff. The current grant builds on a smaller grant we received in 2017 for a research-practice partnership (RPP) to build capacity, and design and test a pathway for computer science education and computational thinking in 3rd-8th grade (Gault Elementary School is our K-5 partner in this endeavor).  Interestingly, in a 2018 survey of families across SCCS, 80% said that “learning computer science is just as or more important than a required course, but only 13% said that computer science (CS) is taught as part of a class at their child's school."  The Branciforte staff have been involved in professional development in order to learn more about the many ways CS affects all of our lives and how they can bring that learning and thinking into their daily lessons to augment, modify or redefine how they teach their content (including in general education, non-computer science specific courses).  Sixth grade Core and Coding teacher David Norman says that “computer science is more than just coding; it’s a way of thinking. It empowers our students not only to understand the world around them, but to recognize problems with it and to design solutions to those problems. Whether it’s coding on a laptop, writing an argument about the social tradeoffs of emerging technologies, or making conclusions about data collected in a science class, getting students to think like computer scientists gives them the skills they need to thoughtfully improve their world.”

An example of CS in the classroom is Math teacher Kristen Silva is using Code Monkey - a scratch code program to require students to do basic computer coding to teach the sequencing and precision that is required of mathematicians.  

Another example is seventh grade science teacher Jeff Singson who is preparing lessons that will ask his students to examine data to discover patterns in genetic inheritance that can be predicted relatively accurately that support the early discoveries made by Gregor Mendel’s work with pea plants.  His students will examine the data gathered by a google form and predict the genetic “rules” that influence the inheritance of the trait (ex. Is the trait dominant/recessive, sex-linked, multiple allele, etc.).   

Last year our 8th grade science teacher Stefanie Brown taught a robotics unit where students wrote code that drove their robots to follow a set of unique commands.  Last year we also began an Arts Academy ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicles) Club that builds underwater ROVs to compete in regional competitions against other schools near the end of the spring semester.   

One final example is eighth grade Core teacher Sara Goldfarb has been working to infuse CS concepts into the American Studies curriculum.  She has focused on in class writing and debates on the political, cultural and social impacts of technology and computer science and on on concepts related to students' digital footprints. 

The Branciforte staff is excited to bring these 21st century skills to our students and we will continue to strive to modify and redefine our instruction to expose our students to computer science in the coming years.  You can learn more by examining the links provided below:

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