Coding in kindergarten? Young minds get jump start on future through computer science education

SKOKIE, Ill. -- According to the non-profit, Code.org, only 40 percent of schools across the country are teaching computer science in the classroom. Experts say this needs to change quickly.

WGN News visited one Chicago-area school district that is teaching computer science and coding to every student from Kindergarten to eighth grade.

At Skokie School District 69, kindergarten students learn the foundations of computer science by coding directions into an electronic mouse to get it to shelter or water.  3rd grade students have to use coding to make a drone fly overhead in a square.  And in 6th grade, students are coding a “sphero” to move around a fake apartment building to help guide the occupants out in the case of danger.

Steven Shadel, Director of Mathematics, says the district wants to provide all students with the opportunity to learn computer science in the classroom.

“When we think about our kindergartners and we think so far into their future about what they’ll be doing in high school, what they’ll be doing in college and what they’ll be doing in their career,” says Shadel, “I can only imagine that no matter what field they go in to, they’ll need to have some sort of background in computer science.”

The non-profit Code.org is working to get this type of education in all classrooms as soon as possible.

“Everyday that passes that students aren’t learning this at school,” says Baker Franke of Code.org.  "They’re going to be at more and more of a disadvantage.”

Code.org offers curriculum online that any school can use for free in the classroom. It has trained more than 1000 Chicago Public Schools teachers to use its tools.

The non-profit says that in Illinois, there is currently no dedicated state funding for computer science education and no K-12 curriculum standards.

However, the Illinois State Board of Education just recently created a Computer Science Education Task Force to study how to increase computer science education, and possibly provide funding for it, in the state.  It’s required to report its findings to the General Assembly and make recommendations by July 1, 2017.

More Information:

Code.org

Computer Science Education Task Force