Google’s CS First clubs open up new worlds for novice coders

scratchA few months ago, I was searching for resources to support computer science education for middle school students—girls in particular—when I came across Google CS First. Not really knowing what it was, I went ahead and registered my school, and then myself—as a teacher host, advocate, volunteer, and guru all at the same time. I might not have known what I was getting into, but I knew that I would do anything to inspire my students to grow and learn in all areas of STEM, but in particular, computer science.

Today my school is a Google CS First site, meaning we host CS First clubs that take place before or after school as an enrichment experience for students in grades 4-8, where they learn about computer science and coding in a hands-on way—learning by doing. As part of the process, I made my classroom available for local volunteers, or “gurus,” to come in to help and connect with students, opening up my school to the community. Our gurus receive detailed information about where to go, when to show up, and even how to locate my classroom. Most importantly, a background in computer science is not a requirement.

The support from Google CS First is tremendous. Upon request, they sent a loaner set of 30 headphones and peripheral materials for the students that included passports, sticker-badges for each day’s modules, detailed scripts, certificates of completion, and directions for exercises. All materials are also available for free download from the club site, with coding done in Scratch, a programming language that uses building blocks to form commands. All of these supporting materials make it seamless for anyone, be it a volunteer guru, teacher, or parent to come in and help out. A suggested script, as well as breakdown of time for each activity, is also included.

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