A dozen North Carolina school districts received a total of $800,000 this year from the state’s Coding and Mobile App Development Grant program.

The funds are intended to help schools introduce students to computer science in new ways.

In Catawba County Schools, that means integrating activities like coding robots and creating apps into existing classes.

Jeanna Goodson is the district’s science curriculum specialist. She explains how computer science was incorporated into a first grade class that was reading a book called The Old Truck.

“So, the lesson was to continue to read that book, and then challenge the students to create their own vehicle. And then they used the robots that we purchased, the Finch 2.0s, to navigate their vehicle through different events in the story,” Goodson said. “So now they're reading a story, they're writing about the story, and they're using some coding to tell their story.”

She says an eighth grade class created travel apps highlighting different monuments before their field trip to Washington, D.C. Sixth graders coded robots to create different shapes with specific perimeters. 

All of these activities are ways of implementing the state’s K-12 Computer Science Standards — the goal of which is to teach students the skills needed to “create and contribute, not just use and consume, in the digital economy.”

Catawba County Schools worked with two other counties that also received grant funding — Alexander and Burke — to create the lessons that aligned with these standards, Goodson said. All three counties trained staff on the standards using external organizations STEM West and Dottie Rose Consulting. 

“So it was not just our county, but it was it was several other counties also kind of sharing ideas and sharing the workload of creating those lessons,” Goodson said. “And it was very beneficial.” 

In a press release from the NC Department of Public Instruction, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said the Coding and Mobile App Development grants help to expose students to careers in technology at a young age. 

“The growth in technology-related jobs in the state underscores the need to drive alignment between our K-12 education system and the needs of our businesses and industries,” Truitt said in the release. 

In addition to learning those skills, Goodson says the students are having fun with the new lessons in computer science.

“The kids are smiling, they're engaged," she says. "Engagement is a huge thing after COVID, it’s to get the students back into interacting with each other doing the collaborative things that we couldn’t do necessarily together during COVID. And they love it.”

With the $75,000 grant received this year, Goodson says Catawba County Schools will train more staff, create more lessons, and purchase more robots.



Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.

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