Bastrop ISD was awarded a partnership with Amazon Future Engineer and Boot-Up Professional Development, a nonprofit organization with the mission to increase opportunities for elementary school students to engage in and learn about computer science. The initiative will be implemented this December during the district’s computer science education week.

Available for the more than 6,000 elementary students in grades K-6 in Bastrop ISD, the program uses coding in Scratch, which makes coding engaging for learners by allowing them to animate different characters using computational thinking.

The approach

Elementary, middle and intermediate school teachers attended a coding class presented by Boot-Up PD. The first round of training began Nov. 10 with Boot-Up PD’s facilitator Heather Cunningham. Jocelyn McDonald, the director of digital learning at Bastrop ISD, helped facilitate the program.

“Part of closing that gap in communities that are underrepresented is to create programs like this in which they try to build our teachers to create these opportunities for our students,” McDonald said.

The program will start with Bastrop ISD's teachers who manage computer labs as well as library media specialists. Some gifted and talented teachers are also involved in training.

“[Teachers] can learn how they can leverage computer classes to support curriculum or interests, or bridge the gap between [science, technology, engineering and math], and literacy,” McDonald said.

Introductory coding classes through Scratch will be taught at Bastrop elementary, middle and intermediate schools.

“We're looking to inspire students to have an interest in STEM and computer science,” McDonald said.

The big picture

Computer science classes are available for intermediate school students, and seventh graders can take part in Project Lead the Way, in which they learn app design. Boot-Up PD helps increase student exposure to coding earlier to better prepare them for these opportunities.

“This program allows us to kind of bring elementary into the fold,” McDonald said.

The program aims to increase Bastrop students’ access to computer science and help bolster underrepresented demographics in computer science.

“Our population is over 70% Hispanic, and if you look at the STEM field, less than 10% is represented in the STEM field,” McDonald said. “I would say we're definitely setting our students ahead to be a part of an underrepresented area in the job market.”

Taking these classes at an early age will better prepare students for jobs of the future, McDonald said.

“We're also preparing [students] for jobs that probably don't even exist right now. Technology is continuing to change and develop over time,” McDonald said. “Engaging in those spaces and understanding computational thinking, artificial intelligence and all the things that are kind of shaping what's happening with the changes in technology starting at a younger age ... is really going to set them apart and let them be able to be great global citizens that contribute to our society in a positive way.”