Junior High students at Rockford Lutheran School are learning the importance of Computer Science and how it impacts the real world. December 6-12 marks Computer Science Education Week, which coincides with the birthday of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906). It ends with a special Hour of Code event on Sunday, December 12, where students around the world are encouraged to spend one hour learning new and exciting ways to code.

In honor of Computer Science Education Week, Mrs. Jensen’s 6th grade Computer Skills classes started by explored block coding on code.org. Students used coding activities based on games like Minecraft and Angry Birds to make characters perform certain actions. They also learned how to draw shapes and manipulate them to create beautiful designs.

Next, students had an exciting opportunity to live Zoom with Dr. Kate Harrison, Software Engineer at Google. Students learned what it is like to work at Google and how employees work together to develop and test new products and services. Kate explained the importance of communication as specialized teams brainstorm new ideas, develop solutions, write code to ensure new products and services function and communicate with the cloud, and conduct testing before being released to the public. “Even a small change can have a really big impact,” Kate said. After her presentation, students were encouraged to give observations and ask questions. Kate’s final advice to students was, “We work hard, but don’t take our work too serious. Always try to laugh and have fun!”

After the zoom, students then learned about the practical uses of Computer Science and how it can benefit the world. In their first project, students explored artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning as it relates to programming. They then used code to train a bot how to clean the ocean, which involved teaching it to correctly identify the difference between fish, water creatures, and trash. Students learned the importance of having efficient and quality data, and how to recognize and avoid bias while programming. In a follow-up to that project, students learned how real-life researchers in Southern Africa use cameras installed in wildlife preserves to photograph and collect data on wild animals. As a part of this assignment, students brainstormed ways that machine learning can be used in a positive way, such as continuing to help improve the environment, tracking endangered species, working with social media, helping fight world hunger, and working within the medical field to improve efficiency and diagnoses.

Finding fun and creative ways to introduce Computer Science to Junior High students is another way that Rockford Lutheran School exemplifies its CORE Value of Excellence! Thank you to Rockford Lutheran School teachers like Mrs. Jensen for instilling Excellence into the classroom and for encouraging young minds to use their God-given talents to make a positive impact on the world!