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Saturday, September 18, 2021

UC Davis to offer nationwide K-12 computer science curriculum

NICKI PADAR / AGGIE
NICKI PADAR / AGGIE

New program to prepare young students for college education and career in STEM fields

UC Davis recently launched a new national program for school districts across the country that will make it easier for students to have computer science educations starting in first grade.

This new curriculum provides students with a full first-grade-to-high-school curriculum that includes mathematics from the Center for Integrated Computing and STEM Education at UC Davis. The program will work to meet President Obama’s “Computer Science For All” campaign, a national initiative to begin computer science and other STEM education fields at a younger age.

The center’s programs are funded in part by the California Department of Education and the National Science Foundation.

According to Harry Cheng, director of UC Davis’ C-STEM Center, the C-STEM Information and Communication Technologies Pathway will help schools across the country meet President Obama’s goals for STEM education for all ages by providing students with a chance to learn computer science and mathematics with a kinesthetic approach.

“We integrate computing into math, and use it as a tool for hands-on integrated learning in math and computer science,” Cheng said.

This will allow students to learn common programming languages like C/C++ for 12 years in their school years as opposed to learning it all in college.

“You don’t learn English once in one year of school, so why should we teach the language of computers that way?” Cheng said.

One of the concerns of this new program, as with many new educational programs, is the task of training. However, according to Andy Fell, associate director of news and media, there are already training programs available for teachers that are ready to go.

“The C-STEM Center can provide two-day training academies and weeklong institutes in using the curriculum in the classroom for teachers who have no prior computer programming and robotics experience,” Fell said.

C-STEM curricula is already being used in over 200 primary and secondary schools and has provided training for over 500 teachers in California.

According to Fell, this new program will also help close the achievement gap for certain students who tend to underperform in math and science.

“For example, when Hillcrest High School in Riverside, California adopted C-STEM Integrated Math II in 2014, 94 percent of students earned a passing grade, compared to 61 percent of students in the conventional Integrated Math II,” Fell said.

Because all of the courses are UC-approved, the C-STEM program will give students a 12-year integrated course in programming and mathematics and will also provide students with the tools and the abilities to use that knowledge in their post-secondary education to prepare them for their careers in STEM.

Raja Vyshnavi Sriramoju, a first-year computer science major, believes that this new curriculum is a great idea that will not only prepare students for college computer science courses, but will also help students to find out whether they are cut out for careers in computer science. Sriramoju went on to say that at her high school, she benefited from a similar program that helped her realize that she was a good fit for computer science.

“[The curricula is] going to help because it’s going to encourage more students to join the STEM fields,” Sriramoju said. “Some students come to university not knowing what they are interested in, so if you start from an earlier age, you’ll know what direction you should be headed in […] I did have this kind of experience, and it was very helpful.”

Written by: Sangeetha Ramamurthy – campus@theaggie.org

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