Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday visited with students at Ashburn’s Moorefield Station Elementary School to see firsthand their learning of computer science.
Northam visited the school as the second stop of a weeklong tour to spotlight national Computer Science Education Week, which was created in 2009 by the Association for Computing Machinery. Recognized in Virginia since 2013, the week this year has a “Mission Possible: Cybersecurity” theme.
Northam spent about 45 minutes at the school, first sitting in on a roundtable discussion with Loudoun County School Superintendent Eric Williams, Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and about 15 Moorefield teachers—with state delegates Wendy Gooditis (D-10), John Bell (D-87) and David Reid (D-32) also in attendance—before visiting three classrooms to interact with students to better understand how they’re learning computer science.
“We are part of the STEM family,” Northam said, noting that his daughter works as a web developer.
Northam’s interest in the school’s programs was piqued when he had to be reminded of his tight schedule during a conversation with a fourth-grade teacher about his students’ project to build a simulated model of Jamestown using Minecraft. “You are all doing great,” he told the class.
When Williams asked those present at the roundtable about the advantages and disadvantages of integrating computer science into the curriculum, as opposed to implementing it as a standalone, First Grade Teacher Katie West said that the integrated approach is better because it can happen now. “Time is of the essence,” she said.
Moorefield Station Principal Karen Roche also mentioned that, in the real world, employees don’t focus on one aspect of a project at a time, but instead focus on the project as a whole. “That’s what we’re teaching these kids,” she said.
Qarni said that computer science is a vital part of today’s curriculum. “We do feel that computer science is something that we really want to invest in,” he said.
According to Northam’s proclamation recognizing Virginia’s Computer Science Education Week, Virginia has the most computer science jobs of any state, with a total annual income of $18.7 billion in the industry.
Northam’s tour this week will take him to another elementary school in Salem, two middle schools in Richmond and Quicksburg and Virginia State University in Petersburg. His final stop will be on Friday at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton.