Today I am very fortunate to have Christine Perkins as my guest blogger. Check out what she has to say about Computer Science Clubs for elementary students!
Start a Computer Science Club at your Elementary School TODAY!
Imagine this: 25 fourth and fifth grade students using block coding to develop their own video games, creating 360 images of your school, developing digital yearbooks, and inventing things using their imagination. After eight months of planning and integrating new technology, this stands as my last experience at the Computer Science Club in my elementary school. After setting up challenges for students to solve, technology exploration time, opportunities for students to use their creativity and imagination for one hour each week I felt that I needed to share this success. With the right resources and some inspiration, I truly believe anyone can start a Computer Science Club at their elementary school and see the amazing impact of young students learning more about coding, technology, and problem-solving!
I had a crazy idea to start a Computer Science Club that would meet once a week for an hour after school. It was shortly after I received an email about the Google CS First curriculum that Google was sending out for students in 4-8th grade. I explored the program and thought it would be a perfect fit for my students based on their passion for technology and creative thinking. That day I set up a Google CS Club and marked myself as a volunteer/guru. Though the setup process, I was able to explore the Google CS curriculum themes and found there are enough themes to fit the interests of any of my students. I was even able to have Google print and send me the materials for my first theme: Storytelling. Google originally suggests starting at the Storytelling theme so that students can begin at a place where they are learning together and can help each other through programming struggles. This also gave me a chance to complete the lessons within the Storytelling theme and gain a basic understanding of the CS First curriculum and program. As soon as we transitioned from the Storytelling unit to the Video Game theme, my students went absolutely crazy for the video game design lessons!
Find Your Team
Two of my equally passionate and tech-savvy coworkers joined my train towards the creation of a Computer Science after school club. If you can find coworkers that will jump on this idea and see the possible benefits of a Computer Club that can let students explore technology for an hour each week it can make everyone’s life a lot easier! These two co workers are also my teaching partners and amazing advocates of technology. They spread the word about the club and jumped right on board the CS Club train!
Projects: Get Students Moving and Collaborating!
After implementing our Google CS curriculum we were overwhelmed by the amazing Scratch stories the students created through the Storytelling theme in the Google CS curriculum. For some of my fourth graders, watching videos and coding was a lot of brain work for an entire hour, I quickly realized we were going to have to create side projects for my students in Computer Science Club. We wanted projects that would get students up and moving around when they were restless. (They did come to us after an entire day of learning in school!)
Through my connections to Google Certified Trainers, I was able to reach out to Jennifer Scott and her innovator project of students creating Digital Yearbooks. These yearbooks were made from pictures inserted onto a template on a Google Slide Presentation. I shared with a small group of my students a Google Drive folder filled with pictures I have taken of my students throughout the school year. I showed them how to “replace image” and add a picture from the folder I shared and the template provided to use by Jennifer Scott. This became a new project for some of my Computer Science Club members. We hope to release this Digital Yearbook for students who don’t get a school issued yearbook at the end of the school year.
Shortly after our school introduced virtual reality goggles my students gained interested in 360o photographs and Google Maps. One of our side projects became putting our school on the map and uploading some 360o photographs. We downloaded the app Google Street View and uploaded several photos of rooms within our school. Our end goal is to create some type of Google Expedition tour of our elementary school for students who are interested in coming to our school.
High School CS Club Motivation
One of the best experiences we had in our Computer Science Club was having members of our Fort Atkinson High School come in and present to our fourth and fifth grade members about computer coding. A high school student who was a part of the CS Club at Fort Atkinson High School reached out to me and suggested the idea. This presentation connected the learning we were doing in Computer Science Club to work done at the high school and even a future profession in a STEM related field!
About halfway through our school year we purchased several Makey Makeys. These tools really helped my students blossom in their creative thinking and invention literacy. For some students, their Scratch creations to life. For other students, we had to push them to inspire some more creative thinking. I created a Hyperdoc filled with resources for students to explore to get their minds flowing in different ways the Makey Makey could be used. Now, we have students playing instruments, creating songs, writing stories, and drawing digital stories using these invention kits.
Later in the year we also purchased two Spheros. The Sphero caught the attention of every student in the club. We had to make a station outside of the classroom for students who were using this tool because they were so enamored by the way it worked. We created mazes for students to get through using the Sphero and especially enjoy using the SPRK Lightning Lab app, where students code functions and hit “Play” to have the Sphero work through a maze.
With the integration of new technology our Computer Science club has transitioned from a place of creation on a computer- to a place of invention and technology exploration. Computer Science Club is the perfect way for projects to continue throughout the school year outside of the curriculum restrictions in a classroom/school day setting. Through this platform students can learn new skills, create inventions, and explore technology all year long!
Purdy Elementary School
Fort Atkinson, WI