University of Southern Indiana

Summer Camp-No DEET Required

by John Michael O'Leary

As we reported in February, Scott Anderson, Program Coordinator of Computer Science, was hard at work (as he always is.) But his special focus at that time was a fellowship to develop summer camps in computing science for middle and high school students. When pandemic precluded a physical gathering of students around the campfire of enlightenment, he rebooted the curriculum for at-home participation.

“We met over Zoom,” says Anderson. “In the mornings, we would give instruction and assign work and then we would stay online in case anyone needed additional help. In the afternoon, we would meet and review the students’ work.”

“Student feedback gave us almost perfect scores on fun ... ”

--Scott Anderson

Wendy Wooldridge, Instructor of Computer Science, and Srishti Srivastava, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, helped Anderson with instructor duties. The middle school camp put their fingers to work in Scratch (June 8 to 12) and the high schoolers wrestled with Python coding (June 15 to 19). Each kid completed a series of exercises and presented a capstone project at the end.

Anderson says the camps were highly successful, despite enrollment below pre-pandemic expectations. “Student feedback gave us almost perfect scores on fun ... and they reported a big increase in confidence for computer programming. Everything shows we have developed good content for future summer camps—as well as for after-school activities during the school year.”

Zoom computer science summer camp
Scott Anderson (top center) meets with middle schoolers over Zoom as they gather virtually to learn about computing science. Companies in the local IT Alliance had provided funding for kids in need to participate, but those funds were unneeded and returned when the camps ended up online.

More Happy Campers?

If two or three instructors can open a dozen young minds to power of computing science, imagine how many students could be enlightened with the help of hundreds of K through 12 educators. Such is the aim of IndianaComputes!, a collaboration among 14 universities in Indiana, including USI. Anderson says the collaboration was one of five organizations the Indiana Department of Education funded to provide this learning opportunity—and the only recipient of money for all grade bands (K-5,6-8 and 9-12). Anderson’s grant request for USI’s participation as a subcontractor was awarded $26K.

“We are developing four of the program’s 20 teaching modules, including problem-solving and after-school clubs and activities,” says Anderson. “We’ve already proven some of the content in our summer camps.”

The grant also underwrites synchronous instruction by content-expert facilitators. Srivastava helps represent USI, and she rotates with other facilitators at each university to ensure educators have about eight opportunities each week to Zoom in for additional instruction. About 300 educators across the state are participating in this first year of the program. 

“We’re hosting a website as a homeroom for participating educators in southwest Indiana,” says Anderson. “It’s a place where they can get study assistance and materials ... and it gives them a chance to expose their students to USI. We’re here to help them go as far as they want to go.”

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