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Springfield, Vt., School District to Start a Computer Science Program



Monday, December 11, 2017

The Springfield, Vt. School District is launching a computer science program for middle and high school students, the first of its kind in Vermont, Superintendent Zach McLaughlin announced in a news release last week. The program will start rolling out in January, and is slated to fully materialize in the 2018-2019 school year.

In addition, the Springfield School Board has voted to make one semester of coding a high school graduation requirement, also a first-in-the-state initiative.

“As we follow societal trends, we know that (students’) lives will be intertwined with computer science,” McLaughlin said in the news release. “Whether as a community member, a voter or a wage earner, our students’ worlds will be impacted by the growing integration of technology with all aspects of their lives. Computer science skills will set our graduates up for success.”

McLaughlin did not return telephone and email messages seeking further comment on the initiatives.

The program’s emphasis on hands-on learning is meant to provide widely applicable experience that will sharpen students’ computer literacy and problem-solving skills. In addition to computer science coursework, the program will likely include extracurricular activities such as a “First Robotics” team and a “3D Vermont” club. Organizers of the program hope to hire a computer science coach, as well as several mentors to lead workshops, activities and one-on-one projects with students.

The program will also take measures to include young women and to promote gender equality in computer science in general. Marguerite Dibble, a Vermont native and founder of the award-winning game design company GameTheory, will help develop a “Girls Coding” program and other school activities in her capacities as senior consultant to school district’s initiative.

“Technology, when used to its best potential, can provide empowerment and opportunity for many,” Dibble said in the news release. “As an industry, technology needs to diversify and broaden, and to do that we need to teach tech enthusiasm in a way that focuses on creativity, empathy and impact.”

The entire initiative is part of a broader collaboration with Springfield Regional Development Corporation and the Center on Rural Innovation, a Vermont-based organization that supports the economic development of small-town communities through digital growth.

“If we can build a program that helps all kinds of kids see through mentorship, hands-on experiences and self-discovery that technology skills can be a platform of opportunity for many diverse and exciting careers,” said Dibble, “that will be a great success.”

— EmmaJean Holley