Pythons and Martians and Finches, Oh My! Lessons Learned from a Mandatory 8th Grade Python Class
3:45 PM - 4:10 PM
Fri Mar 13, 2020


As computing technologies continue to have a greater impact on daily life, it becomes increasingly important for the K-12 education system to prepare students for the computerized world. In this paper, we present the curriculum design, implementation, and results from a one-trimester introductory Python course that is mandatory for all 8th graders in our school district. This course is a crucial component of the K-12 computational thinking pathways we are developing at our school district, which take students from block-based programming and computational thinking (elementary school) to text-based programming and applications of computer science (high school). Our mandatory 8th grade course serves as a bridge between these two components. We present qualitative results that highlight the challenges that arose from teaching a course for all students -- not just those with a prior interest in computing -- and how the instructor overcame those challenges. We also present quantitative results that demonstrate the course's positive impact on students' attitudes towards computer science, their intent to re-engage with computer science in the future, and the gender gap with regards to confidence in computer science.

Amal Nanavati PhD Student, University of Washington
Aileen Owens Director of Technology and Innovation, South Fayette Township School District
Mark Stehlik Teaching Professor/Assistant Dean for Outreach, Carnegie Mellon University

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