Now kids are computing in kindergarten Computer science teacher Sheena York, center, helps fifth grade students work on programming during their weekly computer science lesson at Marshall Elementary School in Marysville, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Now kids are computing in kindergarten
Lexile

Moving her finger over the laptop trackpad, 6-year-old Lauren Meek drags and drops a block of code to build a set of instructions. She clicks the "run" button.  And she watches as the character moves through a maze. She then pumps her fist in excitement.
 
"Yes! This is so easy," says Meek, a kindergartener at Marshall Elementary in Marysville. The school is north of Seattle.
 
This fall, most elementary school students in the Marysville School District are getting 40-minute weekly computer science lessons. It is part of their core instruction. It is part of a growing effort nationwide to expose more public school children to computer science. That includes students as early as kindergarten.
 
Backed by technology leaders, nonprofits and companies, schools in New York, San Francisco and other cities have committed to offering computer science to students in all grade levels. Chicago says computer science will eventually become a high school requirement.
 
Supporters say it's not just about learning how to code. It's also learning how computers work. They say computer science teaches kids to think logically and be creative. It exposes them to the technology that will drive their future.
 
"In the 21st century, computer science is just as foundational as biology, chemistry," said Hadi Partovi, founder and CEO of Code.org. It's a Seattle-based national nonprofit. It works to expand access to computer science and increase participation by women and minorities.
 
The group is also behind a campaign to get millions of students to participate in an "Hour of Code," which takes place the second week of December.
 
Bringing computer science into the schools ensures that everyone has an opportunity to become digitally literate. That is according to Yasmin Kafai, a professor of learning sciences at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education.
 
"We're not talking about turning everybody into a computer programmer or computer scientist," said Kafai. "It's a basic literacy."
 
Learning computer science also opens the door to high-demand jobs. By 2020, 4.6 million of 9.2 million science, technology, engineering and math jobs will be in computing. This is according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
 
Computer science doesn't enjoy the benefits of other disciplines, including agreed-upon standards or robust assessments to measure learning. That is according to Jeanne Century, director of Outlier Research & Evaluation at the University of Chicago's Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education.
 
But it's the same argument for science and math, she said. There are practical issues. Those issues include more jobs requiring computer science. "Just as important is the fact that computing is everywhere in our lives. It's pervasive all around us. We need to understand computing."
 
One of the challenges is finding enough well-prepared teachers. Among other efforts, an initiative of the National Science Foundation is seeking to have 10,000 well-trained computer science teachers in thousands of high schools.
 
Currently, computer science is taught in about one out of four high schools nationwide. There are even fewer in lower middle and elementary school grades. And only 27 states allow a computer science course to be counted toward graduation requirements in math or science. This is according to Code.org.
 
But there's been a surge in interest in recent years. In 2015, nearly 49,000 students took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science. This was a 25 percent increase from the previous year.
 
"Colleges are saying, 'There's an incredible demand. We'd like to see more students become better prepared when they get here'," said Terry Redican, vice president of Advanced Placement program at The College Board.
 
A new AP computer science principles course debuts next fall. That exam is focused on real-world applications and aimed at increasing representation among women and underrepresented minorities.
 
At Marshall Elementary, more than half the students are low-income. Principal Kelly Sheward embraces computer science. "It's access that we didn't previously have." And it ensures the kids will be as prepared as their peers for the digital future, she said.
 
During a recent lesson using Code.org curriculum, teacher Sheena York asks a class of fifth-graders to identify the pattern in the computer puzzle. Then they solve it using the fewest steps. She urges them to try different strategies and test their work as they go along. And she wants them to ask each other for help.
 
"I'm figuring this out piece by piece to see if this works," said Isiah Gibbs, 10. "That doesn't work. So I'll try something else."
 
In the lower grades, students may learn about algorithms, or a set of instructions. This might include the steps for a baking recipe. Older students may write programs that create a game or interactive story. Many lessons don't involve computers.  Math and other concepts are integrated into the lesson, York said.
 
"It's almost as important as reading and math," said fifth-grade teacher Hank Palmer.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How can computing be made accessible to 6-year-olds?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (101)
  • charlies-buh
    12/09/2015 - 05:27 p.m.

    We are doing hour of code at our school, and though I have not done it yet it seems very fun. Some of the programs look hard .

  • matthewv-1-gra
    12/09/2015 - 05:41 p.m.

    By Chromebooks or cheap windows or Linux laptops

  • annabel1226-yyca
    12/09/2015 - 08:40 p.m.

    I think it is not good to let kindergartners use computers. They might be doing something else. Like, games, other stuffs, youtubes. I think we shouldn't let them use computers.
    Also it will be very easy to learn because little kids are good at computer stuff. So, it would be easier to learn for them to do bad things from the computer.

  • william1108-yyca
    12/09/2015 - 09:30 p.m.

    WOW! I never knew that those little kids can do that. I thought that they can't do that. But now that I have read this I now know that they can do this. Maybe preschoolers can also do it. Someday I will have to find out soon.

  • elizabetha1-sch
    12/10/2015 - 11:08 a.m.

    1) Who: Teachers and students in various American school districts partaking in computer science classes.
    What: In a new initiative, districts across the country are introducing computer science and programming curricula to students in all grades; even kindergarten.
    When: This is ongoing. It has started within the past two years.
    Where: Across the United States, particularly in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Seattle
    Why: This is an notable story because programming and computer science had been only open to college-age students until recently.
    How: Technology leaders, companies and non-profits like Code Inc. are committed to spreading this skill.

  • deylap-sch
    12/10/2015 - 12:49 p.m.

    1.
    who:The students and the teachers in Various America school partaking in science.
    what:In a initiative across the country
    where:In New York
    Why:It is so kids can be on computers
    how:The leaders are committed to spreading these skills

  • maxwellc-3-bar
    12/10/2015 - 04:09 p.m.

    Computing can be made accessible to 6-year-olds by increasing and educating how much the public know about computing. By doing this, the people who understand the need for teaching younger kids computer science will take action to ensure that 6-year-olds, and other ages, will have access to basic computer instruction. As stated in the text, "Principal Kelly Sheward embraces computer science. "It's access that we didn't previously have." And it ensures the kids will be as prepared as their peers for the digital future, she said." As the principal of the school expressed, as the modern age advances, students need to adapt and be able to have access to technologies that will become very important to all societies in the future. The more schools and communities who accept this will be able to move forward faster and more efficiently. I think we can do this as the future of the world, but we cannot become so totally immersed in technology that we forget who we are, like Walle.

  • timothyd-sch
    12/10/2015 - 04:14 p.m.

    6)This is a news article because it describes a series of events that recently occurred at a kindergarten at Marshall Elementary in Marysville the school is north of Seattle."In the 21st century, computer science is just as foundational as biology, chemistry said Hadi Partovi."

  • jeffreyb1-sch
    12/10/2015 - 07:21 p.m.

    4)This story could not have happened any time before this century because they were still developing computers in the late nineteen hundreds

  • maxwellt-2-bar
    12/10/2015 - 08:52 p.m.

    Computing is being made available to 6-year olds through Code.org, a non profit organization. Code.org "works to expand access to computer science and increase participation by women and minorities". Because it is free, most schools can afford it. This article provoked my thoughts because when I saw the picture, I recognized it as Code.org because in Tech class this year we have also been using Code.org.

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