An Open Source Curriculum

An Open Source Curriculum

An Open Source Curriculum

Making Code Haven's Materials Available to All

tl;dr: Check out our new curriculum, published online at codehavenyale.github.io!

Why Go Online?

Code Haven's mission is to inclusively increase access to computer science education in middle schools. For the most part, this mission is realized through our classroom model. This year, we've partnered with 7 classrooms around New Haven, and every Friday, a team of 6–8 mentors goes into each classroom with a specialized curriculum. Throughout the semester, we cover the basics––if-statements, loops, variables, and the coordinate plane––and build to a final project, where students create an Android app to present at our end-of-term Project Fair.

Throughout the year, we have a few other events that help us achieve this mission. We run a Demo Day, which brings students to Yale's campus to hear from faculty speakers and student presenters. Additionally, we run a Teach Tech conference (click here to learn more), where we present our curriculum, various "unplugged activities" we deploy in the classroom, and have speakers on topics ranging from "Why You Should Teach CS" to "Self-Selection Bias in Computer Science." This conference allows us to reach far more students than our 7 classrooms allow, even if it was only those who could travel to Yale's campus on a Saturday morning.

However, the teachers who attended our conference wanted more - they wanted to have access to what we teach in the classrooms. Especially now, with a global pandemic forcing everyone to stay home, having access to a starter CS curriculum online seems more timely than ever.

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Challenges We Faced

At Code Haven, we've played with the idea of publishing our curriculum for years. We've hesitated for a few reasons.

Firstly, it's hard to publish something that is constantly evolving - each semester, we work hard to improve our curriculum, and so what is published might not be the final iteration. With that said, we have been working on this curriculum for several years, and are pretty proud of what we have produced. Also, wider access to our curriculum could even help us improve it faster. We encourage everyone to leave us feedback, whether that comes in the form of writing us an email or clicking the edit button that sits atop every article to suggest changes.

All pages of curriculum are easily editable.The other concern we had was pedagogical. Was it responsible, we asked, to publish a curriculum like ours? We've found success with our model, but we travel to classrooms in teams of 7 dedicated mentors. Most classrooms do not have anywhere close to the same ratio, so we did not want to publish something that we worried might not work in the average classroom.

However, overwhelmingly, we were advised to publish the curriculum anyway. While it may not work perfectly in every classroom, we really do believe that the more resources out there for increasing access to CS, the better. In order to mitigate these concerns, we have added a few notes to the site. We've made it clear that this curriculum was designed for a certain educational context on the website, and in the FAQ section, we've added some suggestions for how to use our resources without having a team of mentors in the classroom.

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Our Project

We have talked a lot about the motivations for what we have created, but what actually have we published? We started by publishing the first 7 weeks of our curriculum, taught entirely in MIT Scratch. Through the course of these lessons, students cover the basics, from variables to if-statements to loops, and end up developing a basic maze-game by the end of it.

Each week is completely available online. We provide several links atop the page:

Lesson plans: A quick snapshot of how to structure the lesson. This is also available in more detail, to see what our mentors are thinking minute-by-minute.

Worksheets (and solutions): Printable sheets that students fill out as they go through the material.

Presentations: PowerPoint slides that accompany each lesson.

We hope that these resources will prove helpful to teachers, as well as any 5th-8th grade students who are trying to get started with coding!

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Next Steps

We wanted to get the core of our curriculum out to teachers as soon as possible. In the future, we have two main goals. The first: publish our second-semester curriculum, which teaches students to produce Android apps. We've found that students getting to create apps gives them a real sense of accomplishment, something exciting that learning the fundamentals cannot match.

Our other immediate goal is to produce tutorial videos for every lesson, to hopefully reduce the strain on teachers and make up for the lack of mentor teams in each classroom. These videos would be a huge boon in regards to expanding our reach. If students could follow along and learn from the videos, we would be able to expand beyond our classroom-mentor model. Alternatively, they would serve as a helpful resource for teachers trying to implement this curriculum - we will be sharing exactly how we'd teach the material. Of course, such videos are even more useful in the current climate, where we cannot attend classes in person.

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Thanks so much for reading! We'd love to hear what you think, and let us know if you're using this in your classroom!

Check out the curriculum: codehavenyale.github.io

Learn more about us: codehavenyale.com

- Gabe and the Code Haven team