As 100Kin10 has noted in the Grand Challenges, many elementary teachers do not teach STEM subjects well, often because of their own anxiety around STEM content knowledge. This is especially true when it comes to the areas of computer science (CS) and computational thinking (CT), which are increasingly viewed as essential skills and knowledge for all students preK-12. Unfortunately, few of today’s elementary teachers have experience or training in integrating CS or CT into their teaching, despite the fact that 63% of 3rd-5th graders say they would like to learn coding (Speak Up 2015).
Our very early stage idea is to prepare high school students with advanced computer science knowledge to work alongside elementary teachers to integrate digital resources, such as games-based learning designed to teach CS principles and CT, into their classrooms. Project Tomorrow has 20 years of experience supporting high school students in exploring teaching careers by teaching STEM lessons in elementary classrooms, and we have found that participating elementary teachers are often receptive to the lesson ideas presented by the high school students and appreciate the impact on student interest and engagement in STEM that results from the near peer teaching model. Our hypothesis is that pairing elementary teachers with high school students with CS/CT expertise will be an effective way to overcome the barriers to integrating these topics into elementary classrooms.