• May 15, 2023

    USCHS students teach coding to fourth graders

    Spark Girls Into STEMA group of Upper St. Clair High School students recently hosted a Creative Computing Club for nearly 50 fourth graders at two Upper St. Clair elementary schools. The high school students are members of the Spark Girls Into STEM (SGIS) Club.

    SGIS offered the Creative Computing Club from 2:45-4:15 p.m. on three consecutive Fridays in April at both Baker and Streams elementary schools. Students had the opportunity to connect with high school students through computer science and learn more about programming through Scratch.

    High school volunteers included seniors Jasmine Dietiker, Eesha Pande, Mariah Rainier and Lauren Starr; juniors Amanda Aidar and Maeryn Mannix; and sophomores Nishma Ghimire, Mia Manalo and Nikhita Thakuria. Jasmine, SGIS president, hopes the program will inspire students to explore computer science more on their own.

    “I had the opportunity of being introduced to Scratch at an early age, and subsequently spent years on my own teaching myself to code,” Jasmine said. “I got involved with SGIS my freshman year because I knew how important it is to give kids that first step and introduce them to fun new ways to learn.

    Jasmine explained that the three-day program centered around the idea of storytelling.

    “Each day, we focused on one concept that the students had to incorporate into their projects,” she said. “Day one was dialogue, and the students learned how to make characters talk to each other and code movement. Day two involved characterization, where the students worked on changing the characters’ appearances and using code to ‘broadcast’ messages between characters. On the last day, students wrapped up their projects with a lesson on Interactive storytelling, where they learned to code for user interaction.”

    The elementary students responded enthusiastically to the coding program as well as to the high school volunteers.

    “The students immediately began working on their own and jumped right into the process of designing characters, scripts of code, and the overall story of their project,” Jasmine said. “It was really inspiring to see how motivated they were to ask questions as soon as they ran into issues and work with a volunteer to debug their code. We even had students who finished their projects early go on to create additional interactive games or animations!”

    Jasmine believes the students enjoyed having the opportunity to create their own one-of-a-kind project while also being able to collaborate with their peers.

    “Each student had a completely unique project and really loved being able to share it with others at the conclusion of the program,” she said. “Over the three weeks, it was great to see that they also enjoyed trying to help each other fix code.”

    Like many clubs, SGIS’s ability to offer programs was impacted by the pandemic. The club is working to rebuild its programs. SGIS plans to offer more STEM-related programs at Upper St. Clair’s middle schools and high school next year.

    “In the past, we’ve held programs at Boyce, introducing middle school girls to more advanced science concepts in biology, chemistry, and environmental science,” Jasmine said. “We’ve also hosted breakfasts/talks with female STEM teachers at the high school to encourage more female students to consider going into STEM.”

    Although Jasmine will be graduating from Upper St. Clair High School in June, she knows that SGIS is in good hands. Dawn Mostowy, USCHS biology teacher, serves as the club’s sponsor.

    “I am so grateful for the help of SGIS Club Sponsor Mrs. Mostowy, who made bringing this program back to life possible and was there every step of the way,” Jasmine said. “I would also like to thank Streams Principal Dr. Klousnitzer, Baker Principal Dr. McClintock-Comeaux, AP Computer Science teacher Mr. Miller, my mom and parent volunteer Lin Tan-Dietiker, and previous Creative Computing Club coordinator Mrs. Wynne for everything they did for these students!”