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As the computer science program within Plano Independent School District (ISD) continues to grow, we are looking at various enrichment opportunities for our students

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As the computer science program within Plano Independent School District (ISD) continues to grow, we are looking at various enrichment opportunities for our students.  We expect it will take us several years to fully build out this program for our students.  We will add new opportunities for additional student groups and grade levels each year. The first three programs are available for parents and students to select through open enrollment.  However, the last one is going to start out selective to prioritize our underrepresented populations.

This summer, we will continue to grow our Summer Institute for Gifted and Talented Students (SIGS) Power of Coding program. Last year, our third and fourth graders participated in the same curriculum.  This year, we will add a new curriculum for our fourth graders.  We use will a combination of Code.org lessons, Sphero SPRK+ lessons, and snippets from coding related books.

Starting in the summer of 2020, the Plano Enrichment Program (PEP), for all on level third and fourth-grade students, will offer Power of Coding.  The same resources as SIGS will be used with longer sessions and more enrichment.

Plano Academy of Learning (PAL) will offer coding engagement every other day on alternating four campuses that offer this program.  We will roll this out for kindergarten and first-grade students.  Students will engage with Blue-Bots while learning introductory coding skills.  This program will add enrichment opportunities to students who are spending their summer developing their reading, writing and/or math skills.

Finally, we will offer the Computer Science Summer Bridge Program for the current eighth-graders who will rise to ninth grade in Fall 2020.  We are asking principals and counselors to help identify students who would benefit from this program.  We are looking to identify students from historically underrepresented populations (minority students, females, low income, etc.) in the computer science fields of study and workplaces.   120 students will be eligible to participate in one of two planned weeks during June 2020. Students in this program will learn to program an artificial intelligence while using the Python programming language, program a Micro:bit, and learn about careers in computer science while engaging with professionals from the computer science field. Students do not need prior experience to participate in this program.  There will be no charge for students to participate in this program.

Building a computer science program for about 53,000 students requires lots of coordination between departments to make sure space is available, teachers can be hired, buses can get students to the right campuses, etc.  Whether you are building your own program on campus or district, start small and grow over time.  It is better to build a strong lasting program than a fast rollout for all students.

I would love to hear from you if you are doing some great summer programs in your district and would like to collaborate. Shoot me an email at dan.blier@pisd.edu.

Dan Blier
District Representative
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