UCS expands opportunities for students to explore computer science through coding
UCS expands opportunities for students to explore computer science through coding
Posted on 11/07/2017
Students working on a computer

Heritage Junior High School ninth grader Anthony Tenn understands the importance that his new computer science course will have on his future.

“Coding is the future,” Tenn said recently. “You can’t stop technology. It’s going to continue moving forward.”

Tenn and his peers at three junior high schools are taking part in a new computer science program designed to introduce important concepts of coding and computer science.

The Computer Science Discoveries course is among expanded offerings made possible by the district’s partnership with the national non-profit, Code.org.

Utica Community Schools is the first district in Michigan to partner with Code.org for professional development resources to integrate coding lessons in elementary media centers and expand courses for secondary students.

“The expanded computer science opportunities give our students a unique advantage for college and career by meeting a critical industry need,” said superintendent Dr. Christine Johns. “Learning to code also gives students the types of skills that employers identify as important to success – innovation, critical thinking skills and problem solving.”

This year, students at Bemis, Heritage and Shelby junior high schools have the opportunity to explore introductory concepts in computer science through Computer Science Discoveries. The course also promotes computer science as a medium for creativity, communication and problem solving.

Over the past summer, teachers at the three junior high schools received professional development from code.org to introduce six units in such areas as building websites using HTML code, using data to solve problems, creating simple games and programming circuit boards.  

According to Code.org, there are more than 500,000 computer jobs available nationally and less than 43,000 computer science graduates. In Michigan alone, Code.org reports that there are 13,923 jobs available today and only 1,793 graduates.

In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor recently reported that new manufacturing jobs are being restructured through automation. While assembly jobs are declining, new demands in manufacturing are being created for statisticians, mathematicians and software developers.

The changing job market is not lost on Heritage 8th grader Greta Kaminske, who plans to pursue a career in math or science. “It’s important to know coding for future jobs,” she said.

In addition to the junior high program, the partnership with code.org has impacted all grade levels in UCS.

Over the past year, the national non-profit organization has been working with elementary media center teachers to integrate coding lessons into UCS curriculum.

Elementary lessons begin as early as kindergarten and include lessons such as algorithms, digital footprints, vocabulary strategies and problem solving.

Secondary teachers have been trained on integrating coding concepts into Algebra I courses taken by every UCS student. Working with the College Board, the district has also expanded an Advanced Placement Computer Science Course to include both Eisenhower and Utica high school students.