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  1. Elizabeth Radday
  2. Research Specialist
  4. EdAdvance
  1. Jonathan Costa
  2. Assistant Executive Director
  4. EdAdvance
  1. Matt Mervis
  2. Director of Skills21
  4. EdAdvance

STEM21+ CS: Integrating Computer Science Principles into the High School STEM...

NSF Awards: 1741148

2021 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 9-12

As Year 3 of the Skills21 STEM+CS project was wrapping up, the world was hit with a global pandemic.  Students in the spring should have been creating team projects using Computer Science to solve a real world problem in a STEM field.  Instead, the Skills21 team, teachers and students made a quick pivot and created a curriculum for personal interest projects (PIPs) related to science content and used computer science.  The PIP curriculum was created to walk students through a personal project independently, any time, and any where.  Personal Interest Projects allowed students to explore a wide range of topics and create final projects that showcased new skills and took on many forms - from apps, to physical prototypes, to computer games.  Personal Interest Projects were highly rated by students and teachers during remote learning in the spring of 2020 and were noted to be different from most of their other academic work.  Students also said that Personal Interest Projects were more engaging.  Anticipating another school year with periods of remote instruction, the Skills21 team is once again using Personal Interest Projects to engage students in personally meaningful work that can be completed independently at home or in school.  Currently over 1000 students in Connecticut are engaged in PIPs - an outgrowth of a major pivot on an NSF project due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  

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Discussion from the 2021 STEM For All Video Showcase (7 posts)
  • Icon for: PATRICK HONNER


    May 11, 2021 | 09:06 a.m.


    This seems like a very effective reimagining of your program under the pandemic. I love the idea of “personal interest projects” for students. In my experience, mentoring is key for individualized projects like this to succeed. Did students receive individual mentoring through their project, and if so, how was that mentoring organized and provided?

  • Icon for: Elizabeth Radday

    Elizabeth Radday

    Lead Presenter
    Research Specialist
    May 11, 2021 | 10:47 a.m.

    Mentoring is certainly helpful!  We found that students during the pandemic were most successful when the teacher provided some mentorship and coaching to keep the students accountable and on track.  Our team also has a "classroom coach" who "Zoomed" into classes all year to provide feedback on individual projects and to the class as a whole.  Collaboration was something we really focused on in design of the tasks so students were interacting with others (often parents/adults in their lives) to get help and support.  In this particular project we did not require students to get a formal mentor outside of their family but have seen schools do that in more deep Capstone projects.  Because this project was stood up right as the pandemic was starting we had no idea how much students would be able to communicate with an outside mentor (and had no idea what the bandwidth for professionals to help a kid during a life changing pandemic would be).  These projects have really been a huge unintended positive consequence of the pandemic and we see the project continuing to live well beyond the pandemic.  

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Christine Wusylko
    patrick honner
  • Icon for: Marion Usselman

    Marion Usselman

    Associate Director, and Principal Research Scientist
    May 11, 2021 | 03:57 p.m.

    This is a wonderful off-shoot of the pandemic.  I love the degree of voice and choice that the PIPs give the students.  How much scaffolding did you have to do to enable the students to successfully narrow down their project ideas to something that is doable?  Were you able to adapt design documents developed for the in-person teams?  Are you sharing those documents?  I would love to see them. 

  • Icon for: Khyati Sanjana

    Khyati Sanjana

    Senior Manager
    May 13, 2021 | 12:19 a.m.

    Love the student autonomy provided by PIPs. Echoing Marion, I am curious to know the foundational skills students need to be successful with their Project. As a middle school teacher, for 9 years, I remember being shocked by the struggles students encountered of just having to choose a project. I also, wonder how PIP will ensure equity and diversity and overcome cultural and socioeconomic barriers?

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Toby Baker
  • Icon for: Jack Broering

    Jack Broering

    Program Coordinator
    May 16, 2021 | 08:26 p.m.

    Sounds like a very good way for students to learn by working independently. What kind of criteria did you use for selecting projects. That is, were there elements of Science and Math that you required them to integrate into their project?  You also mentioned that the mentors typically came from family. How did this work? I would assume there was some degree of variability in the mentors. What are your thoughts on this?

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Toby Baker
  • Icon for: Pendred Noyce

    Pendred Noyce

    Founder and Executive Director
    May 17, 2021 | 12:52 p.m.

     Great pivot! The idea of personal interest projects across the curriculum is a great example of personalization and turning responsibility for learning over to students. Did any of the students go on to enter their projects in science and engineering fairs?

  • Icon for: Toby Baker

    Toby Baker

    May 17, 2021 | 05:48 p.m.

    What a great move to use PIPs during Covid. Not only are students work independently with the use of zoom sessions for coaching mentoring. At IC4, our students are collaborating with peers very heavily, even with the pandemic, and even though they are on different continents. In addition to Zoom sessions, do your students connect through email? Our 6-12th grade students communicate through Slack channels regularly. They formally present their projects weekly during meetups or zoom meetings. 

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