An Independent School • Grades 5-12
Starting from Scratch
Starting from Scratch

by Anya V. '18

Anya V. '18 was one of 30 students in Washington State who received a 2017 Aspirations in Computing Award from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). Winners are selected for their academic history, leadership ability and plans for post-secondary education.

I became interested in computer science in third grade when I joined my school's programming club.

When I was eight, I was not interested in coding. It was just something my father did, and learning syntax to build small projects felt fruitless. But I joined the club anyways. There, I discovered Scratch, an MIT software designed to teach young children how to code using blocks instead of text. Programming was no longer typing code onto a blank screen but, instead, a puzzle to solve. I became fluent in Scratch, applying it to most of my school projects and impressing my teachers with cool animations. It was only later that I would learn that Scratch's influence extended past a few good grades.

While searching for a service project for high school, I learned that many local elementary schools did not offer programming classes. So, I decided to teach computer science. I put together a curriculum and contacted local schools, libraries, and businesses to see if any would allow me to use their computers for the class. After dozens of emails and follow-up phone calls, a school in my neighborhood agreed to incorporate my classes into their summer program.

During the summer of 2015, I taught a course at Wedgwood Elementary School. After hours of creating detailed lesson plans, I confidently walked into the class, believing I was ready to handle any problems my students encountered. I was mistaken – being a teacher did not mean creating a plan and blindly sticking to it. My students were eight to eleven-year-olds, each with a different level of programming experience. I had to adapt my plan to each student, giving some more tasks to complete when they finished early and spending extra time explaining how the computer "thought" to others. By the end of the course, every student developed at least one original project. When the administration saw my students' enthusiasm and achievements, they hired a full-time teacher to run a Scratch course during the school year.

Last summer, Alex N. '18 and I taught Scratch courses as part of the Northgate Elementary School's summer program. Our students worked diligently through all the classes and, on our final day, were excited to present their projects to each other. Jon showed Eric the demon he had drawn for his chasing game, rapidly talking about the time it had taken him to get the face just right. Brian played his animation of his hamster over and over, adding different soundtracks to the background of the project and laughing with Annie as an auto-tuned version of "Happy Birthday" blasted through the speakers. We returned to Northgate this winter to continue teaching.

Designing and teaching programming classes has made me more confident in my ability to make a difference. At Lakeside, I became the classroom peer tutor for Computer Science II and III and have spent most consultation periods helping students in those courses. I also participate in the Computer Science Club and helped created the club's lecture series for which we have invited several computer science professionals to speak about their careers and work. The next lecture is scheduled for April 27th at 10:25 in Allen Gates 204.

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