Sevier School District teachers have been exploring computer science and robotics thanks to a grant we received from the state. Funds have been used to provide training and professional development for elementary and middle school teachers. In 2019 the state rolled out new computer science standards for K-12 students. These standards are designed around helping students become critical thinkers and problem solvers. Sevier School District was awarded a planning grant first to help implement the professional development. Then we were awarded our first year of implementation as well. With the implementation funding we are purchasing various robotics kits for the elementary and middle schools. The kits will provide hands-on learning for our students and really get them engaged in problem solving. We’ve had teachers exploring various types of robotics and technology so that they can decide what robotics kits will be best for their schools and students. We wanted the teachers to be the ones to decide what robotic kits to buy because they are the ones working with the students in the classrooms each day.
Throughout this process we’ve had a two day training with teachers from each of the elementary and middle schools. This training was from MindSpark and was focused on implementing code.org in the classrooms and learning about the Computer Science standards. In addition, we took this same group of teachers up to the Creative Learning Studio at UVU to get some more hands-on experience and learn how to use various robots and how to create lesson plans that are cross curricular.
We are starting with the elementaries and middle schools in the hopes of getting more students excited and involved at a young age with computer science and robotics. Research has shown that students as early as second grade are already telling themselves they can’t do computer science and that they won’t have a career in that. We want all students to know they can do computer science and provide them with those opportunities. If we can continue to receive our grant funding each year, we will start incorporating professional development for some of the high school teachers and for all the rest of the elementary teachers this next summer in 2022. Eventually, all teachers in our district will have the opportunity for professional development focused on computer science and incorporating it into all core subject areas. In 2018 it was estimated that there were 4,000 unfilled computer science jobs in the state of Utah. And recent studies have shown that number has grown to over 5,000.
The nice thing about Computer Science jobs now, is that so many companies are providing employees the opportunity to work remotely and live in rural areas. While it used to be common to leave rural areas like Sevier County in order to work in the Tech Industry, that is not the case anymore. Our goal is to provide opportunities for all students to explore Computer Science and then provide additional opportunities for students at secondary schools to take classes in those areas so that if they want to do something with technology when they leave high school, they will have the skills to do it.