U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited Moorefield Station Elementary School today.
She stopped by to see how the school uses computer science daily in its classrooms. Moorefield Station is one of three computer science immersion schools in Loudoun County, along with Meadowland and Round Hill elementary schools.
DeVos spent 90 minutes touring the Ashburn school accompanied by Principal Karen Roche, Superintendent Eric Williams, School Board member Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge), and several school system administrators.
DeVos saw how computer coding was infused into various classroom settings, including Nicole Morris’ severe autism class. In first grade, Kaitlin Thomas’ students showed DeVos how they were learning to graph using the scratch program. In fourth grade, Shawn DeLuca’s students demonstrated animal robotics; programming a robot dog to get past a robot snake and safely into a doghouse.
After the classroom demonstrations, DeVos held a roundtable with Moorefield Station and central administrative staff.
Roche said coding taught students to problem-solve and work through glitches in teams. “A lot of it is trial and error,” DeLuca added. “They have to understand they’re not always going to get it correct the first time. You really have to sit down and look at ‘What did you do right?’ and ‘What did you do wrong?’”
Nicole Morris, who teaches a moderate-to-severe disabilities class, said coding has helped her students with their verbal skills. “We’ve seen a lot of students who struggle with language suddenly explain to someone else about code…I didn’t expect to see that kind of development.”
Williams explained that Loudoun County Public Schools piloted computer immersion at the elementary level to get young people excited about a field that has a severe workforce shortage.
“One way we could have attacked that issue is to focus on the high school level. But the concept was we’d start really early and try to get kids excited,” he said. He added that LCPS not only wants a large number of students excited about coding, it wants a diverse group of students immersed in this field.
Moorefield Station teachers told Williams that goal has been met. They said computer immersion reached out to students from varying academic backgrounds and needs. English learners and students without access to a computer at home have shown a keen interest in coding and this interest has translated to subjects across various school subjects. For instance, students are required to use proper capitalization and punctuation when they are writing scratch code, which aids their writing development.
Teachers also said students have begun coding projects at home that involve their parents. In classroom polls, coding has eclipsed recess and lunch as the favorite thing students do in school. “My kids are always excited to do coding,” DeLuca said. “If we don’t have coding for some reason… ‘Why didn’t we do coding today Mr. DeLuca?’… ‘I wanted to show you this Mr. DeLuca.’”
“For me that’s key as we move forward to expand this into other schools,” Turgeon said. “…We have to bring in the students who didn’t have the aptitude or interest before.”
DeLuca added computer immersion and coding gives girls a great deal of confidence. “I learned something the boys can’t do.”
Teachers at Moorefield Station, Meadowland and Round Hill elementary schools are the first in Virginia to take part in the Code to the Future computer science immersion program, made possible by a $5,000 donation to the Loudoun Education Foundation from Unanet and $20,000 from the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia/Chin Family Charitable Fund.
— Loudoun County Public Schools’ Public Information Office