Making Change Happen -- Our History

We are striving to build a common language in computational thinking, including building a scaffolding of learning so that the concepts and design process of computer programming are easier to grasp. We begin block-based code in Kindergarten with students transitioning from block-based to text-based in 7th grade. The most common question we receive from schools We are striving to build a common language in computational thinking, including building a scaffolding of learning so that the concepts and design process of computer programming are easier to grasp. We begin block-based code in 1st grade with students transitioning from block-based to text-based in 7th grade. The most common question we receive from schools is “Where do we begin?” The graphicis below best describe our process. 

Block-based Code Timeline
Block-based to Text-based Timeline

We firmly believe that connected learning experiences are as important as the curriculum. Each experience supports the other. Students have the ability to discover their passion more in-depth when different opportunities exist. We often use after-school connected learning experiences as incubator projects, testing and gauging the impact on teaching and learning, and then adapting what we learn in the curriculum. The initiatives shown below the line represent the  after school connected learning activities, while those above the line are embedded within our curriculum. You can clearly see how our programs expanded through time.

 

We started in 2010 teaching 8 girls in an after school Middle School STEAM team to use Scratch. You can see how we evolved over the next four years. We have grown from supporting 8 students to over 1800 in block-based code by embedding computer programming for all students K-8 at South Fayette in partner schools in our region. From the smallest beginnings come great rewards. Never underestimate the power of a very simple idea.

Our text-based opportunities in high school include Java I, Java II, and AP Computer Programming. Students also have the opportunity to follow their passion and participate in connected learning opportunities such as the software development team, in an after school Python course, or Mobile App development courses as well as innovation leadership programs.

 

Last year our software development team won the National Congressional STEM App Challenge for Congressional District 18. In addition, high school junior Brooke Ley, entered the She++ Fellowship competition held by Stanford University, designed to help young women inspire other women, and communities, to explore computer science. Brooke was one of the winning entries for developing the Inspire Series, and attended a weekend at Stanford to present her project. This year we have another student creating a Python course which will be taught as outreach to regional schools as well as a middle school connected learning experience. We also are continuing the Flashcards project for a larger beta test and we have two teams of students creating products which we hope to send out to market in the future.

 

Computational Thinking Concepts,
Practices, and Habits of Mind
South Fayette STEAM Studio Model for Innovation

We use Scratch and other block-based code to teach and reinforce computational thinking, computational practices and habits of mind, identified in the computational thinking framework developed by Mitch Resnick from the MIT Media Lab. We have adopted the Creative Computing Guide developed by members of the ScratchEd research team led by Karen Brennan, Harvard Graduate School of Education. (It is an amazing and helpful guide.) From this framework we are creating a scaffolding of learning for computer programming beginning with block-based code in elementary school through intermediate and middle school. Most importantly, through this endeavor we are teaching students a thought process, a process of thinking, not a technology skill. (Illustration above shows computational thinking concepts and practices outlined in Scratch curriculum guide.)

 

The South Fayette Township School District, with generous support from The Grable Foundation, is sharing the STEAM Studio Model for Innovation by providing a variety of outreach services to local school districts including: (1) curriculum development, teacher training, and classroom support for two partner schools, (2) after-school outreach programs in computer programming for neighboring districts, (3) informational briefings, (3) working sessions, and (4) summer institutes. To learn more about the positive impact our outreach services providedthrough the STEAM Studio Model has had partner schools in the region, click on The Grable Grant page on this site.

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