Google has created a new program to offer computer science enrichment opportunities to students. Google CS First, clubs that help to teach computer science to students, are popping up across the country. There are currently 2,540 such clubs that offer experience in computer science to 38,200 students, according to the Google CS First website.
According to Arizona middle school teacher Janice Mak, she discovered the clubs while looking for ways to help her students, specifically girls, learn about computer science. The program allowed her to create a “girl’s lunchtime coding club” that has sparked her students’ interest in the subject, and, she hopes, that will place them on a career path toward STEM-related work options, writes Nicole Gorman for Education World.
She now says she recommends the program to all teachers.
“I might not have known what I was getting into, but I knew that I would do anything to inspire my students to grow and learn in all areas of STEM, but in particular, computer science,” she said. Running in eight-day sessions, Google’s CS FIrst’s modules “are engaging and cover a variety of themes … They include informative screencast tutorials that make it easy for both students and volunteers to follow along,” she added.
The first day begins with an overview of the club and an introduction to the Scratch platform, which “uses building blocks to form commands.” Students continue through a series of tutorials that will aid them in the creation of their own projects.
The modules cover a number of topics, including “Sound and Music,” “Game Design,” and “Storytelling.” Each topic contains a project that the students must work on.
“In building these projects, the students are sequentially introduced to various ‘blocks’ that perform key functions, such as the repeat loop and if-then commands. These help build the foundation in computational thinking so that they gradually gain the confidence and ability to tweak and create their own versions of these initial projects,” she said.
Mak went on to say that the program offered a supportive learning environment that was greatly enjoyed by her students. In fact, her students became so enthralled with the projects they began to work on them outside of official club times, which is encouraged by Google CS First.
She said the program is very simple to set up, requiring the user to merely sign in with a Google account under the “Get Started” section of the CS First website. A number of training resources are available to help teachers and volunteers become comfortable working with the program so that they can then help students learn.