WESTFIELD — Westfield Academy and Central School board of education members received special presentations on coding and STEAM programs during a recent meeting.
Business teacher Mary Jo Andalora updated the board on the coding curriculum and Librarian Melissa Zastrow gave a presentation about STEAM classes for sixth grade students. They made their presentations via ZOOM to the board.
Andalora told the board that the coding curriculum took over the technology part of the business department. The students started off by learning software programs, but it was important that they also learn computer science, she said.
As new technologies emerged, Andalora explained, knowing some coding, or at least understanding how computers work, better equipped students to interact with the technology around them and use it to its full potential.
“At first coding was just dragging and dropping blocks,” she said. “Then I received training at
SUNY Fredonia. This provided students with a new platform that they can use free of charge.”
Andalora explained that her pupils can make use of Code.org to learn important skills.
“They are learning skills that they can carry with them as they move from school into life,” she said. “They will know how to create web pages, with color, cascading styles and other features.”
According to Code.org, while computer science drives innovation throughout the U.S. economy, it remains marginalized throughout kindergarten through 12th grade education. Their vision is that “every student in every school have the opportunity to learn computer science as part of their K-12 education.”
One of Andalora’s coding students, Tyler Tunison, participated in the ZOOM presentation and shared his impressions of the new platform.
“It gives you a lot of freedom and it guides you along the way. It helps you debug very easily,” Tunison said. “It’s been very user friendly.”
Andalora said she has been able to provide the coding curriculum because of a grant from Amazon that is available to low income or rural schools.
“Two years ago, I was introduced to a grant from Amazon,” she said. Amazon’s Future Engineers program provides professional development for teachers and a fully sequenced and paced digital curriculum for students, she said. They use Code.org for middle school and high school students.
“WACS has been accepted into the Amazon future Engineers program for the second year in a row,” Andalora said. “I hope I can get this again next year and continue this type of learning for our students.”
The second presentation, given by Zastrow dealt with Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) for 6th graders at WACS, with an emphasis on the ‘A’.
Zastrow explained to the board that when the sixth grade students were being brought back into the building, one half of them were with technology instructor, Daniel Martin and half were in the library with her. she said the 6th graders meet in the library four days a week for STEAM.
Zastrow described how she is incorporating the art component of STEAM for the students.
“The last activity we did was the creation of Christmas ornaments with origami,” Zastrow said. Ornaments created with STEAM foster curiosity and a love of learning in the students, she added.
Due to technological difficulties, Zastrow was unable to share the visual portion of her presentation with the board.
Several board members expressed appreciation for Zastrow’s efforts.
“It sounds like you are doing very good work with our sixth grade students,” board president Wendy Dyment said.
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