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I am a computer science professor, and a mother with elementary school aged kids. I want to create a website with computer science problem solving activities at the K-5 level. Like everybody else in the field, I am worried about the leaky pipeline in CS (and lack of entry into the pipeline to begin with!).

So, I have started working at the elementary school level showing students that computer science is NOT typing, but can be fun, interesting, and worthwhile. I'm especially interested in projects like Tim Bell's Computer Science Unplugged (unplugged.canterbury.ac.nz), cited in the Appendix of A Model Curriculum for K-12 Computer Science from CSTA. I've also created some projects that I do. For example, to model the concept of algorithmic design, I ask students to stand up and sort themselves (by last name or anything else), then figure out the algorithm that they used to do this (elementary school kids usually use bin sort; middle schoolers usually use selection sort), then we sort by the same key, but use a different algorithm.

To model TCP/IP, I ask a group of students to write a message. Another group tears it up, numbers the parts and writes the destination. A path on the floor shows the connections and nodes and where packets can go. Other students serve as nodes that pass each packet on. When the message gets to the destination, the destination node student puts the packets together to form the message. Other examples include searching algorithms, representing binary numbers, modeling different kinds of data, and compiling code.

I am sure that many of you have lots of activities like this. I would like to collect many ideas in one place to make it easier for others to do. The repository will be for anybody who would like to go to elementary schools in the classroom or after school with a ready to go lesson plan in computer science: teachers, parents, or industry volunteers.

My background: I have worked with teachers on several teacher training projects, as a Principal Investigator and as a technology teacher in others' projects. I've worked with kids doing computer science, technology, and general science at the elementary and middle school level as a PI, as a mom, and as a community volunteer. The programs have been during the school day, in Saturday academies, in summer science camps, and after school -- in programs targeted at all students, for minorities, for poor rural students, for poor urban students, and for girls. I have also addressed attrition at the undergraduate level in my own classes attending workshops and reading computer science education literature, incorporating pairs programming, etc. I was an AP reader for computer science this year to get a better idea of high school CS. And, I have two kids whose classes I visit to try out my ideas.

I mention all these because I am not naive in thinking that elementary school teachers would love to be given computer science problems to incorporate into their curriculum, or that even if they did, all problems relating to interest in computer science would be solved. I understand that NCLB, state standards testing, and lack of preparation in computer science are all deterrents to adoption. Still, I would like to see something more than the material that ISTE has developed to support NETS, which is mostly technology-based. I've seen these programs make an impact. But it's too hard for every person to develop ideas and lessons on their own. Ideally, I'd like to use the repository as a basis for larger efforts, including teacher workshops, etc. later on.

So, this is my request: if you have activities that you would like to share, please send me a link or description in email (cs-k5-material@pcs.cnu.edu). The activities I have are mostly kinesthetic learning without the use of a computer, but other activities are fine also. If you want to view the site, CSTA will have a link to it in their searchable repository. Or, you may send me email, and I will send you the link once it is live (anticipated January 2007). Thank you!

If you have comments, suggestions, rants, advice, I would love to hear them.

Thank you.

Lynn Lambert, PhD
Associate Professor
Computer Science
Christopher Newport University
Newport News, Va

Comments

Thanks for the excellent article and resource. Nice work on top of that.

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