On June 8th, a small group of individuals representing educators from Champaign Unit 4 Schools and the University of Illinois met to discuss computational thinking and computer science at the middle school level. In the morning, Ms. Jessica Pitcher shared what work is currently being done in the areas of CT/CS at Kenwood Elementary School. She discussed the transformation the school has undergone during its adoption of CT as a structural model for curriculum implementation, as well as the struggles and celebrations that have occurred along the way. Ms. Pitcher also shared some interactive “unplugged” activities, which required participants to utilize the CT framework for collaboration in order to work in pairs to act out a set of algorithms.
Much of the afternoon involved time for district teachers and specialists to explore computer programming through Scratch. Individuals worked at their own pace to create simple, interactive video games. Later, with the help of Mr. Joe Muskin from UIUC, participants worked with Arduinos to program LED lights. The day ended with some collaboration time for teachers to begin planning how to incorporate CT/CS in their classrooms. The STEM Specialists from Jefferson, Edison and Franklin Middle Schools developed a plan to implement CT/CS into their STEM classes so that all middle level students enrolled in the course will have the opportunity to build skills in these areas. –Tina Lehr