The student-run organization Code Haven will hold a conference, TeachTech, on Saturday to help K-8 teachers implement computer science lessons in their classrooms.
Code Haven, which was founded in 2015, volunteers by teaching coding and computer science at five New Haven middle schools. TeachTech will be the group’s first major conference targeting teachers hoping to incorporate computer science into their classrooms. Fifty-five teachers have signed up to attend the free event, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 17 Hillhouse Ave.
“A lot of the teachers have no background in coding or CS, so we’ll be going through the basics with them,” Code Haven co-founder Annie Chen ’19 said.
Every semester, the group has to turn down requests from teachers to work in their classrooms, due to logistical constraints, said Ellis Burgoon Miskell ’19, a member of Code Haven. The conference will give Code Haven an opportunity to reach a wider audience, she added.
The event will begin with a keynote address from one of the group’s initial supporters, Nathaniel Granor ’09, a program manager at TEALS, a Microsoft project that supports computer science education in high schools. The address will be followed by an hourlong coding and teaching workshop, focused on the foundations of programming. After that, attendees will have the option of working with a few different technologies, including Scratch and MIT App Inventor. Since many of the teachers have limited hands-on programming experience, most of the workshops will use block-coding tools, which simplify traditional coding language into easy-to-use boxes that users can click and drag in order to code.
At the end of the event, the group will announce the winners of a raffle and give away prizes from their sponsors, according to Chen. These include several educational technologies and computer kits, such as a Sphero Robot, a Piper kit and two MakeyMakey kits. The group will also award gift cards.
Members of Code Haven interviewed said they hope the event will give teachers the tools they need to encourage students to pursue computer science. Computer science is undertaught in many school curricula, even though many careers require a background in the subject, said Sara Lewis ’21, a member of Code Haven and a member of the News’ web development team.
“We don’t allow students to self-select in,” Chen said. “It’s kind of like taking math; everyone should get to take CS and then decide if they like it, rather than saying ‘I’m not cut out for this so I won’t try it.’”
According to Lewis, the group is committed to informing the next generation about subjects that may not have been important for people to know in the past. She noted that one of the teachers the organization has helped told the group how excited he was to see his kids learn topics that he doesn’t know himself.
Code Haven will hold an exhibition of student work in the spring at the end of next semester. The students who work with the group will produce a final project using what they learned from their Code Haven classroom volunteers, Chen said.
“Introducing kids to the concepts of computer science and teaching them how to code at a younger age is really important,” Lewis said. “Initiatives like this are really important in terms of developing future leaders in the field of technology.”
As of this fall, Code Haven works with more than 120 local students.
Maya Chandra | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, Dec. 8: A previous version of the headline for this story said that the student group is teaching computer science to New Haven students. In fact, the group is teaching computer science to local educators.