Google, New York Libraries Collaborate on CS First Program

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

New York City’s public libraries will be hosting the Google First Computer Club free program for elementary and middle school students to learn coding basics.

26 libraries in Queens County will be hosting the free club this summer with more joining in the fall.

The purpose of CS First, which was created last year to teach computer science in schools, is to increase computer confidence in students grades four through eight and to show them that the field is relevant to any career and interest.

The CS First club was announced at the Children’s Discovery Center at Queens Central Library in Jamaica, NY, reports Christina Vercelletto of the School Library Journal. Speakers included former New York City mayor David Dinkins, Google’s head of external affairs for New York and New Jersey William Floyd, and the president and CEO of Queens Library Dennis Walcott.

Floyd said:

We need more coders, more computer scientists, and we need them to be as diverse as our beautiful city. Don’t just be consumers of content, but creators. Any one of you can be the next [Google founders] Larry Page or Sergey Brin. In fact, I’m counting on it.

Dinkins, who is known as a library advocate, spoke about his time as mayor in the early 1990s:

Even then, we did know that public libraries served a greater purpose than as a repository of books and magazines. For one thing, they were one of the only places some residents had air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter. [That was part of the reason why library operation was increased from five days a week to six.] About three and a half people knew we had done it, but that’s not important. What’s important is that we did it.

Over 900 kids are signed up for 300 summer spots, which will be filled by lottery due to the high demand.

One of the students in attendance at the announcement event, 13-year-old Megan, learned that computer science could be used in just about every activity. She said:

I’m going to see what computer science classes are offered in high school, and take them.

According to the Queens Library website, the curriculum includes modules on animation, art, fashion and design, creating projects for friends, game design, music and sound, and interactive storytelling. The lessons are given via instructional videos, and teach the coding language Scratch, which was created by MIT. Each module is available for free online.

Anyone can sign up to be a CS First “guru” even if they have no previous computer science experience. 20 high school students are being trained in computer science to help teach others at the library and to get high school credit as well as experience for college applications.