In the Fall of 2020, Neighborhood North received a CSforPGH Learning Lab grant, funded through Remake Learning. This was a partnership opportunity for Out-of-School Time (OST) organizations who desired to increase computer science (CS) Learning in their programming. Aside from the $3000.00 in funding, the grant paired each OST partner with a formal CS Educator to help grantees incorporate more computer science education into their programming. In addition, grantees and CS Educators met as a cohort several times as an opportunity for practitioners to share learning across the field within the growing regional STEM and CSforPGH Ecosystem.
Through this grant, Neighborhood North is excited to begin working toward ways to build an early and creative CS program in our community that could feed into our district’s middle and high school program. Making CS content available in creative OST areas is the first step to building a learning ecosystem that promotes CS equitably in our county.
Through our partnership with the Beaver Valley Intermediate Unit STEM Lending Library, we have been able to provide CS and STEM programming at our Neighborhood Learning Pods, with resources such as BeeBots, Ozobots, Cubelets, and Snap Circuits. So, when we received the CSforPGH Learning Lab grant, we asked ourselves how we could connect it more intentionally to museum learning, rather than creating another class or program. So we did what we do best—we combined some art with our computer science and designed a hands-on mechanical exhibit that promotes computational thinking in a creative way!
Our New CS Exhibit!
Introducing the Design Challenge Exhibit! The challenge of the exhibit is to code a cityscape design along a grid from one end of the city to the other. Landmarks, storefronts, roads, etc. representing Beaver Falls have been 3-D printed on magnetic square tiles each with coordinating code. To teach concepts of Block coding and early computational thinking, learners will be able to design the town of Beaver Falls however they envision it, and the town pieces will correlate with block coding pieces that will go across the bottom in the Code Zone section. The mechanical exhibit teaches CS skills that can be translated to any coding application that uses block-based visual programming such as Blockly or Scratch. The exhibit will connect to our Hey Ruby curriculum. A special shout out and thank you to Tyler Jodon, Beaver Falls STEM Educator and Education Committee Member for his help in the design and 3D printing of this exhibit!
A Matter of Accessibility
Neighborhood North believes that ALL the learners in our county should be exposed to computational thinking in playful ways that inspire learning, including learners with exceptionalities. That is why we used our grant to design a museum exhibit that would introduce CS learning in a way that was accessible to our community of learners who may be unfamiliar with technology or who may have physical or cognitive disabilities that have previously limited their exposure to new technologies.
With all users in mind, we designed the exhibit taking universal design principles into consideration, such as lowering the height of the exhibit to make it accessible to children in wheelchairs. Additionally, we were inspired by the tactile images created by the Andy Warhol Museum that allow users who are seeing-impaired to experience the works of art through touch. Through the inclusion of Braille, raised directional arrows on coding tiles, and tactile 3D printed images of buildings and landmarks we hope to make the exhibit accessible for learners experiencing visual impairment. By including braille on the exhibit, not only makes it inclusive for our friends who are blind but creates a community of acceptance for those of us who have sight, as well. The more exposure we have to diverse languages and cultures, the more understanding, empathy, and inclusion our communities will reflect, making them more equitable for all.
Why is CS important?
Below are some (2018) statistics around CS that speak of its relevance and the inequitable nature of its access.
500,000 open CS jobs in the US
35% of schools in the US teach CS
20,000 open CS jobs in PA
⅓ of schools in PA teach CS
4,000 students an AP CS exam in PA
23% were female
300 students were underrepresented students (Black and Latino)
Since COVID, CS jobs have increased, and we believe our students should be afforded the opportunity to qualify for those jobs.
Starting January 31, 2022:
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