Education

At this Boston school, coding is a graduation requirement

Above: Coding classes at Beaver County Day School

Nine out of 10 schools don’t offer programming classes, according to nonprofit organization Code.org. That’s a huge problem, given the demand for technical jobs, which is only set to increase.

One small private school, located just outside of Boston, intends to set an example. Beginning in the fall, Beaver Country Day School will make it a requirement for students to take coding lessons. Beaver Country is an independent school for students grades 6-12. It has been around for several decades and is known for hiring teachers who take risks.

What’s interesting about this new curriculum is that programming isn’t an elective course for a select few mathematically gifted students. Instead, programming and graphic design skills are taught in a variety of lessons, whether it’s geometry, art, or social science. Students will be taught through online tutorials and videos as well as classroom instruction.

School math chair Rob McDonald said the school introduced this new requirement, dubbed the “coded curriculum,” as educators have an obligation to “give kids the tools to build up on their creativity and make their ideas a reality.”

However, the school is also one of the most expensive and elite institutions in the state. According to its website, tuition for all grades at Beaver for the 2013-2014 academic year is $39,950.

This type of program might not be easy to replicate in other school districts, where students don’t have access to Internet or computers at home. Programs like CodeNow, which are teaching kids from inner city neighborhoods to code, offer an alternative model.

The federal government is taking steps to support students across the country, particularly those in rural areas. The Obama Administration has repeatedly stressed its commitment to digital programs, and is bringing faster Internet connectivity to schools.

Beaver Country has been making a push to get the word out about the new curriculum, even bringing on a public relations firm. Head of School Peter Hutton recently wrote an opinion piece for the Huffington Post about the program, urging other schools to follow suit. He writes:

Beginning this fall, Beaver’s math teachers will use a discovery-based approach that enables students to explore geometric concepts through coding. By taking an integrated approach to computer programming, all students will learn to write code before they graduate.

With a panel of experts, Hutton hopes to speak in-depth about the program at SXSWEdu, the annual conference that is a mecca for education technology entrepreneurs. Peruse the panel proposal here, and check out the video below for more information about the new curriculum.

Should programming be a requirement at schools? If so, what age should children learn to code? Let us know in the comments section below. 

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