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Local schools highlight computer science


Traci Newell/Town Crier
Computer Science Education Week enables experts in the field to work with students at Los Altos High School during the school’s Coding Showcase.

Local schools promoted Computer Science Education Week last week with a number of different activities, including Hour of Code programs.

The annual Computer Science Education Week aims to demonstrate for K-12 students the importance of computer science. The week commemorates the birthday of computing pioneer U.S. Navy Adm. Grace Murray Hopper, born Dec. 9, 1906.

Hour of Code is typically a one-hour introduction to computer programming, designed to demystify code and show that anyone can learn to do it.

Computer science jobs are expanding at two times the national average, according to Code.org, and there are not enough graduates to fill the jobs. Nine out of 10 K-12 schools do not offer computer programming classes – but that is not the case locally, where Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education continues year-round.

Los Altos High School

To mark Computer Science Education Week, each of Los Altos High’s 2,040 students took part in Hour of Code lessons during their math classes.

In addition to the coding lessons, the school hosted an after-school Hour of Code Showcase Event, during which students participated in coding activities, ate pizza and earned prizes while working alongside volunteers from Google Inc. and other high-tech companies.

Volunteer guides also included representatives from Technology Education and Literacy in Schools, the organization that brought computer science to Los Altos High and hundreds of schools across the United States.

“The Hour of Code event is important and beneficial in getting students who might never think of themselves as coders to try the activities,” said Jeanne Yu, mathematics and computer science teacher at Los Altos High. “We are hoping to inspire students and get them interested in computer science or to grow their interest even more, possibly leading to decisions about college majors or careers.”

Yu said she hoped to recruit students to take computer science classes through the event.

“A number of our Intro to Computer Science students have gone on to major in computer science in college due to having taken our class,” she said.

During the event, three classrooms full of students worked independently and in groups to complete different levels of coding exercises, from basic to advanced skill levels.

Los Altos School District

The Los Altos School District marked Computer Science Education Week with the theme “Code with a Buddy and Try Something New.”

Each elementary school had its STEM lab open during lunchtime to encourage coding activities with friends. Different grades paired up (second-graders with fifth-graders, for example) to take part in buddy coding activities.

Depending on grade level, students used programs such as Bee-Bot, Kodable, Scratch, ScratchJr and Code.org for their lessons.

Sixth-graders learned about the history behind Computer Science Education Week and then worked on coding tutorials of their choice. They were encouraged to share why they like to code and why it is important.

At Loyola School, parents paired up with students for Family Code Night. The school used resources from MV GATE, a nonprofit organization that provides computer science education to schools in Marin.

“It’s a great opportunity for parents and children to be learning together and creating a bond,” said Loyola Principal Kimberly Attell. “Students showing their parents something they are learning is a valuable experience and a great opportunity to make those connections and to learn together.”

The Los Altos Educational Foundation, which funds a majority of the district’s STEM programs, last week sent a letter to parents highlighting the district’s computer science programs and how they equip students with life skills.

“It teaches problem solving, creativity, logic and other skills that apply to all subjects,” the letter stated of the importance of computer science. “It also prepares students to be literate in the digital world – to not just consume technology, but also create it.”

Bullis Charter School

All Bullis Charter School students participated in the Hour of Code last week.

Kindergartners played The Foos coding game on laptops, and other students used Lightbot and Bee-Bot apps on iPads. Students also accessed lessons from the Hourofcode.org, Code.org and Khanacademy.org websites.

The charter school emphasized the coding education that occurs throughout the year, including sixth-graders building their own computers, eighth-graders designing and programming Chatbots and designing their own apps, and students using LEGO WeDos and Spheros products, and Hummingbird Robotics and Arduino-based kits.

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