SCRATCHING THE SURFACE: INTEGRATING COMPUTER SCIENCE INTO MIDDLE SCHOOLS
Reading, writing and arithmetic have long been considered the fundamentals of a strong education, but technological advances of the last century are forcing students to become savvy in a fourth area, coding, if they want to truly be prepared for advanced study and employment. Scratching the Surface is a two-part project funded by Google. First it is a curriculum designed at the College of Charleston, a university in Charleston, South Carolina, USA, and piloted in middle schools in South Carolina. After building capacity in the development and delivery of computer science content, middle school educators teach coding to their students in order to introduce a racially and gender diverse audience to computer science with the hope of promoting more underrepresented students to pursue further study within the field. The curriculum presents middle school teachers, from various disciplines, with the fundamentals of the programming language, Scratch, and prepares these teachers to incorporate student-based programming projects into their own classrooms. During a three-day professional development, teachers are instructed in the basics of coding, are introduced to sample assignments that are mapped to education standards in science, social studies, math and English, and are encouraged to write their own assignments. After a break where the teachers complete programming projects to prove a firm understanding of the language, the educators introduce Scratch to their students in a classroom or afterschool setting, requiring at least one project be completed using computer coding. Initial results found that students introduced to Scratch had an increased interest in programming, thought coding was fun, and believed they could become a computer scientist. Secondly, Scratching the Surface provides fellowships for university students majoring in middle grades education to complete a portion of his/her elective credits in computer science, in hopes that these future educators will be better prepared to introduce computing concepts in their own classrooms. The students are involved in the teacher professional development, classroom observations of the integration of computer science content, as well as the afterschool program as a key component of receiving the fellowship. Initial feedback from these students, one now a teacher, suggests that they will introduce computing in their classrooms.