Think you can’t offer computer science to students in your afterschool program? Think again. Afterschool Alliance recently compiled a guide filled with tips and resources to help afterschool and summer program providers offer computer science options to their students.

Think you can’t offer computer science to students in your afterschool program? Think again. Afterschool Alliance recently compiled a guide filled with tips and resources to help afterschool and summer program providers offer computer science options to their students.

Computer science skills are becoming essential for all students in the 21st century. Computer science instills a new way of thinking called computational thinking, which fosters critical thinking, problem-solving skills and logical reasoning. In addition, the number of computing jobs is projected to grow by 12% between 2014 and 2024, the largest percentage growth among all occupations.

But beyond the need to fill important jobs, the goal is that students learn to create technology, instead of just consuming it. Through computer science education, students can program a robot, make their own video game or design a mobile app. The world is powered by technology, and it’s crucial that students develop the skills needed to use tech in a way that is beneficial to their communities.

Computer Science in Afterschool

Last year, Afterschool Alliance set out to assess the state of computing education in the afterschool field and the opportunities and challenges that exist. More than half of the afterschool programs surveyed had offered computing at some point with activities ranging from robotics to video game design to interactive electronics. The survey findings also indicated a high interest in offering computing education among these respondents with almost all them (97%) either extremely likely or likely to offer it again in the future.

Those who had never offered computing education to their students identified a variety of challenges, including professional development, funding, access to reliable technology and curriculum availability. Despite these obstacles, 89% of them were still interested in offering computing in the future.

For those reasons, Connecting to Computer Science: A Resource for Afterschool Practitioners was created. The guide includes existing computer science resources, curricula and research to jump start computer science education in your program. There are four key parts to this guide:

  1. Activities and Curriculum: Find a selection of research guides, curricula, programs, activities and online resources to teach computer science in afterschool programs. The products listed are developed for, or work well, in the out-of-school time environment. From CS Unplugged - a collection of free learning activities - to MIT App Inventor, there’s a resource for any program interested in offering computer science.
  2. Develop Your Skills and Connect with Others: Professional development was identified as a challenge for providers looking to offer computer science options. This section includes resources to help program staff build skills and connect with others. Use resources like Code Studio and ScratchEd, or consider inviting tech professionals from the community to help out.
  3. Standards for Computer Science and Technology: Afterschool programs aren’t expected to adopt standards in computer science and technology. However, they can position themselves as school partners and align their offerings with school day programming and standards. This section includes information about the K-12 Computer Science Framework, Next Generation Science Standards and International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) Standards.
  4. Grow Your Understanding: Explore research studies and articles to better understand the state of K-12 computer science in the U.S. Find resources from notable organizations like Google and Change the Equation. Afterschool Alliance suggests citing the provided stats in grant proposals to make the case for afterschool computer science.

While there’s still work to be done to equip afterschool programs with the tools and resources to offer computer science, this guide offers a great starting point. To learn more about Afterschool Alliance and their work in the afterschool field, visit www.afterschoolalliance.org.