By Sami Vashaw (EDUC ’18)
As an Early Childhood/Elementary Education major with a minor in Computer Science, I wasn’t sure what kind of internship I would get while studying in Montreal. I was thinking of going into the educational game field, maybe QA testing games with an educational perspective. When I was given the opportunity to intern at Kids Code Jeunesse as a curriculum developer, my ideas for this semester went from trying something new with the risk of not enjoying myself to a perfect opportunity to put my two passions together and do what I hoped to do after college.
KCJ is a not for profit organization that works to bring computer science into elementary classrooms in Canada, as well as providing teacher workshops and outside of the classroom workshops for students and their parents. KCJ is funded through companies including Google, Ubisoft, Ludia, and Microsoft. This funding allows KCJ to provide 8 weeks of computer science instruction into classrooms at no cost to most schools. This is a key part of the process of bringing computer science into classrooms, because a lot of schools are hesitant to bring coding into schools mostly because of the cost of training. The KCJ fund allows for this hesitation to be dissolved and allow students to learn something new and extremely useful in modern society.
My time at KCJ has been amazing and I have learned so much. I have been very interested in bringing computer science into elementary classrooms, but I wasn’t exactly sure how. Now I know how to teach kids how to code in a meaningful, interactive, and engaging way with Scratch Jr, Scratch, HTML/CSS, Python, and Raspberry Pi.
The most important thing I learned at KCJ was that I am not alone. I didn’t think anyone else was interested in teaching elementary students how to code. I knew that there were articles about integrating programming in science, but I only had two examples of that on hand before coming into the curriculum development process. Now I know about things that Scratch has provided to aid teachers in educational uses of the tool, ways Code Club is spreading across nations to help provide a way for students to learn coding in a fun way, how the UK now has Computer Science as a part of their curriculum in schools, and the hard work and dedication that KCJ puts into spreading their ideas across Canada, as well as other countries.
The work I have done has helped me realize my own potential, especially when I was able to brainstorm and create different workshop ideas to interest more girls in coding. That helped not only my lesson planning abilities, but also my ability to accommodate and work to make my lessons more fun. In my previous education classes, I mostly made lesson plans to turn them in for a grade. But now, I can feel the power of my work and my ideas. I know how to target specific groups and be able to let everyone have fun while learning.
After this semester, I am very excited to bring computer science into my future classroom, as well as help other teachers do the same. The opportunity to be a part of a different area of the educational field than I am used to learning about was incredible.