Computer Science: Coding Its Way Into the Core Curriculum

Charlie Williams From a glance at the rosters for Computer Science One, it’s no secret that the classes’ enrollment contains an abundance of freshman. While it may seem like it, it’s not due to the class of 2022’s unrivaled class size — starting with this year’s freshman class, all students will be required to take a comp-sci course in the Upper School. It all started about four years ago when the school aimed to update its goals, one of which was to develop a computer science department. In the four years since that idea was conceived, Mr. Simon, Latin’s director of technology, has brought computer science to all three divisions of Latin: lower schoolers are taught sequencing, middle schoolers learn the basics of programming through hands-on, “unplugged” activities, and upper schoolers can write code to their own games. All three levels of CS at Latin spark students to pursue to ever-growing field of STEM. “Significantly-advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” said Mr. Simon, quoting author Arthur C. Clarke, “Magic is a lot of fun, but if there’s too much magic in your actual life that just means you don’t understand how things work.” The hope of the computer science requirement is to show students the inner workings of the devices we’ve come to rely on. Computer science has also been connected to computational thinking — working with trial and error, the ability to use logic, or learning to follow a layout. Ms. Hansberry, the chair of the computer science department, said that sort of thinking “is a part of everything we do all the time.” Why isn’t the class optional? “For every requirement, there’s likely to be something you’re being forced to do,” said Mr. Simon. Before the entire student body begins to complain about not having time, the computer science board looked at the data of classes. They understand, now, that adding another class is a push, so they only required it for one semester. “We tried to give more options like taking it during the summer, and taking it any of three years” added Ms. Hansberry. “We’ve purposefully designed the class to be project based, so it’s able to be customized.”. The CS Department hopes that the requirement will take away the exclusive stigma of STEM — “there are [still] huge problems with computer science around diversity, and around gender,” said Ms. Hansberry. And while the computer science program is relatively young, hopefully it can insight necessary change in STEM’s demographics. ]]>