Middle Schoolers are coding in greater numbers than ever before thanks to a new InfoTech course launched this year in the 7th and 8th grades. (All 6th graders take an introductory InfoTech course focused on information literacy and skills development)
Tracy Thompson and Erin Zimmerman Hall, the division’s Librarian and Technology Educator, respectively, are leading the charge using free curriculum developed by the nonprofit Code.org, which seeks to expand access to computer science in schools, with an emphasis on increasing participation among girls and students of color. (The organization also sponsors the annual Hour of Code, a global initiative to mark Computer Science Education Week, of which Friends is a participant.)
Exposure and equity are key factors in the Middle School coding program, explains Zimmerman Hall. “With the shift toward teaching coding at younger ages, [the Middle School] understood we’d need to integrate that into the curriculum so that every 6th grader, every 7th grader, and every 8th grader will have a foundation that builds on what they have learned in the lower grades,” she said. Although Friends’ Lower and Middle divisions use different languages, “all of the coding concepts – the cause and effect and similarities in logic and language – are the same.
“This means that when students enter the Upper School they can take a coding class and feel confident in their abilities.”
Prior to this year unless students were part of the after-school Robotics Club or were in the Fine Arts Elective, where they explore 3D design, they might not have opportunities to code. The new 7th/8th grade classes, which meet twice per cycle, guarantee equity across gender and socioeconomic differences. “We’re getting more girls interested,” adds Thompson, of the InfoTech classes. “It’s not a club and it’s not a one-off experience.