According to a 2020 Brookings report, “multiple studies indicate that CS education can help students beyond computing. CS education has been linked with higher rates of college enrollment and improved problem-solving abilities. CS education promises to significantly enhance student preparedness for the future of work and active citizenship.”
Computer science is distinct from learning about the general use of computers and programs, like performing an internet search or creating a digital presentation. While these computer literacy skills are complementary, computer science focuses more on logical reasoning, data and analysis, algorithms and programming, the impacts of computing and structured problem-solving skills applicable to a variety of fields, careers and life experiences.
The move to expose HB students to more computational thinking and problem solving at all grade levels began about a decade ago when the school developed a course called Exploring Computer Science and made it a requirement for graduation. Students take the first half of the course in 7th grade and the second half in 8th grade (if they enter HB in high school, students take the course then). HB has since expanded its CS offerings to include Programming Interactive Media, two AP-level CS courses and Post-AP CS. HB also supports an all-girls chapter of a computer science honor society and, for the last several years, has hosted an annual computer programming competition called BYTE (Bring Your Tech Expertise) for students across Northeast Ohio and beyond.
New for the ‘23 – ‘24 school year is a data science course that is several years in the making, said Michael Buescher, a mathematics and computer science teacher in HB’s Upper School.
“It’s the way the world is going,” he said. “What happens to data, where does it go? What does it do? How do you manage huge chunks of data and find patterns?”
These are questions the course will explore while digging into very specific project-based examples, Buescher said, unpacking, for instance, how Spotify uses the data it collects on users of its platform to make song recommendations.
Of the nearly 900 K-12 students at HB, Yarmesch estimates about a third take a CS course beyond the requirement. And that number is growing every year.
“The students who have started in kindergarten and early on like computer science and see a connection to their future,” she says. “Computer science (is a skill) you will use in all sorts of fields. … Our motto is we learn not for school but for life.”
At the same time, Yarmesch is acutely aware that women, particularly minority women, are extremely underrepresented in CS-related fields, so giving HB students exposure to coding and new technologies is critical to fostering greater equity in the future workforce.
“Just being able to provide these opportunities for all our students regardless of what their background is, is really important,” she said.