The Science Museum of Minnesota is visiting Hopkins elementary schools in an effort to embed more STEM opportunities in the form of computational thinking into the curriculum. Science Museum instructors have already visited Tanglen Elementary, and this spring, they will be completing residences at Alice Smith, Gatewood, Meadowbrook, Glen Lake, and Eisenhower elementary schools.
“Our students will be better prepared to tackle the challenges that they will face in years to come because of having exposure to STEM and computational thinking,” said Keenan Jones, Tanglen Elementary sixth-grade teacher.
During National Engineering Week, the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Cargill Foundation announced a continuing partnership for the benefit of elementary schools throughout the Twin Cities metro area, including Hopkins Public Schools. It will begin a five-year commitment to develop a computation curriculum for Twin Cities schools.
The last partnership provided Elementary is Engineering (EiE) curriculum and teacher training for grades K-5. The new project focuses on a different area of STEM: computational thinking. The work will begin in the elementary schools and aims to lead to long-term preparation and workforce readiness for all Hopkins students.
Computational thinking is the thought processes involved in formulating a problem and expressing its solution in such a way that a computer—human or machine—can effectively carry out. The project will also explore the power of computational thinking to connect with standards in non-STEM areas like reading comprehension, social studies, and art.
“Computational thinking isn’t about learning how to write a specific piece of code,” said Eli Skinner, program generalist at SMM. “It’s about the deeper thought processes, skills, and attitudes that students use to define, break down, and solve all sort of problems.”
The skills that students build through the new curriculum are applicable across all subject areas and disciplines. They will build computational thinking skills and practices such as problem decomposition, algorithm design, creative reasoning, and perseverance through project-based exploration using Scratch 3.0 software.
Jones’ class at Tanglen recently had instructors from the Science Museum visit the classroom. Jan Elftmann, instructor of Lifelong Learning at the Science Museum of Minnesota, said she was impressed with the focus and excitement of the students to learn the new 3.0 version of Scratch.
“It was when I asked them to choose a second character for their adventure that I saw their creativity explode with the possibilities of using this program,” Elftmann said. “Learning how to code is learning how to communicate what they want the computer to do, step by step.”