Barrington 220 Prioritizes STEM with Tynker
Posted in Coding in the Classroom, College and Career Readiness, Featured School, Ideas and Tips, Teacher Feature
Barrington 220 Prioritizes STEM with Tynker
Located about 35 miles northwest of Chicago, Barrington 220 educates nearly 9,000 students from PK-12. Since forming in 1973, Barrington 220 has been inspiring all learners to achieve excellence. In 2018 Barrington 220 was named the “Best School District in Illinois” by 24/7 Wall Street. This guest post was written by Becky McDowell, K-5 STEM Teacher/Team Leader for Barrington 220. You can follow her on Twitter @BeTheChnge.
We made STEM a priority in our district for ALL students, including our youngest learners. Our mission is to empower our students to become innovative designers, global collaborators, and digital citizens. What students learn today will help them solve current and future global challenges. Coding plays a large role in our STEM program because we see it as not just a technical skill students need, but more of a language necessary for learners to communicate, create, and become future problem solvers in our digital society. Learning to code helps our students organize, connect, test and iterate upon their ideas; develop grit; and break down complex problems. These skills transfer and support their learning in other content areas as well as in students’ daily and future lives.
The Barrington 220 Difference
Our District has a very supportive Educational Foundation backed by parents and community members that understand the importance of providing opportunities for all of our students to engage in STEM and become technologically literate. We have been able to develop our award-winning PK-5 STEM program by starting with a pilot; testing out different programs, lessons, and spaces; and modifying our STEM program along the way. Our program takes place during the school day with STEM specialists that are certified teachers. We start with an introduction in pre-Kindergarten to engineering with LEGO Duplos and scale up to 25 hours of instruction in 4th grade utilizing robots and STEM materials, including the LEGO EV3 robot. We chose to use LEGO materials because they allow students to engage in both engineering design and coding challenges, and we can use them with other coding platforms like Tynker. Our 5th graders apply their STEM skills to entrepreneurship and human-centered design through our FreshINC program.
These experiences in PK-5 provide a foundation that includes identity and awareness for students’ future experience in 6-12. Because Barrington 220 is a PK-12 district, we have the opportunity to provide a continuum of STEM opportunities which results in a large percentage of our students taking computer science and engineering classes in high school. At Barrington 220, we have a strong culture of innovation that encourages our students and teachers to test out new ideas and learn from failures.
“We view coding as a language necessary for learners to communicate, create, and become future problem solvers in our digital society.“
The mission of our STEM program is to empower our students to become innovative designers, global collaborators, and digital citizens. Coding and computer science support this mission by developing computational thinking which includes mindsets and cognitive skills that help students solve problems. These problems can be digital in nature and require writing code or it may simply be a complex problem in the physical world that requires students to decompose and analyze the problem to look for patterns and priorities. What students learn in and beyond our classrooms today will help them solve current and future global challenges. The more students that develop these problem-solving skills, the more problems we can solve. We view coding as a language necessary for learners to communicate, create, and become future problem solvers in our digital society.
How does Tynker fit in?
Barrington 220’s One to World initiative is a teaching and learning program steeped in curriculum pedagogy and professional development. The mission of the One to World program allows teachers and students to stimulate creativity and collaboration, communication and critical thinking. At the same time, we create opportunities for students to participate as global citizens. Teachers use digital technology to provide real-world learning experiences. We use devices to facilitate personalized learning. The program allows us to encourage timely and meaningful feedback and at all times we guide the responsible use of technology for our students. The One to World program allows 24/7 availability of technology devices, provides ubiquitous access to the Internet, and delivers a set of innovative apps and services to all Barrington 220 students.
Tynker helps us achieve this mission by offering opportunities for our primary students to develop cognitive competencies and share their creations with others. Tynker also allows for personalized learning with its unique feature of allowing students to view and edit their programs in block-based or text-based coding languages. This allows all students an access point to coding that is at their level of readiness. Tynker also provides instant feedback and coding support within the modules. Learning goes beyond the classroom, so Tynker also provides students the opportunity to continue developing and modifying their own programs at home using the Workshop feature.