‘YKSD Celebrates #CSEdWeek 2020!’ by Chelsea Hurst

Computer Science Education Week (#CSEdWeek) “is an annual call to action to inspire K-12 students to learn computer science, advocate for equity in computer science education, and celebrate the contributions of students, teachers, and partners to the field” (https://www.csedweek.org/). This year’s #CSEdWeek is focused on the intersection of computer science and social justice, and raising up diverse voices in technology.

Over the past two years, the Yukon Koyukuk School District (YKSD) has partnered with the Alaska Staff Development Network to introduce, develop and implement Computer Science Education to all students across the district through an Alaska Native Education Program grant called the Math and Computer Science Advancement (MaCSA) Project.

By providing workshops, professional development, and one-on-one coaching, teachers have learned how easy it is to use the Code.org curriculum, regardless of their skill level or comfort with technology. In addition, students have expressed excitement while working through the Code.org curriculum and activities. Code.org has significantly increased the confidence levels of our teachers and students which has led them to branch out even further to explore Computer Science beyond just the Code.org website. For example, we now have students using 3D Printers, Minecraft Education, Spheros, aviation simulators, iBots, and drones.

To commemorate #CSEdWeek, YKSD will be hosting a huge and exciting Hour of Code celebration! Not only does the district want to celebrate how far our students have progressed by participating in MaCSA grant activities, the district is also enthusiastic about communicating to students that they can accomplish great and amazing things, even in the midst of a pandemic!

Throughout the week, students will participate in a variety of Hour of Code activities.Teachers will conduct their own Hour of Code and will have the choice to do this on their own, or to conduct the activity with support from the district’s Information Technology Specialist. Activity resources have been created for teachers to make planning for this event as seamless as possible. Further, for students who are quarantining at home, unplugged Hour of Code activities have been developed. There are many options for everyone! 

After students have finished their Hour of Code, they will receive an invitation to a district-wide celebration to recognize and reward them for their participation. All participating students will be presented with an Hour of Code certificate, a newly created personalized YKSD Coding sticker, and a sweet treat. It is important for students to know and understand that the work they are doing with computer science is a big deal!   

Implementing programs that can generate excitement for learning can also carry-over into other content areas. YKSD’s focus is to decrease gaps in opportunities between remote Alaskan students and their road-system counterparts. Increasing student involvement in computer science opens a wide variety of avenues to make connections in many different career fields. These opportunities will increase post secondary options for students.

The majority of rural/remote communities around the state have very limited access to a Computer Science education. Therefore, we are thankful and thrilled that Code.org’s mission is to bring Computer Science to all students. Locally, YKSD is grateful for the opportunity to partner with ASDN and the local Code.org team to make Computer Science education and activities possible for our students.