Each year, students and teachers at Excel Public Charter School celebrate and demonstrate mastery in their computational thinking (CT) skills at CT Day—a full day devoted to concepts such as algorithmic thinking, pattern recognition and experimentation. Students have spent the entire school year applying these computer science basics to breaking down complex scenarios in every field — from history to sports to entertainment. At this year’s CT Day, students rotated around to various stations that challenge and hone their CT skills.
In the Puzzle Room, which was much like an escape room, students found clues, and worked together to open a locked box. “The kids are basically solving a bunch of logic puzzles to hopefully open this box,” said Alexis Hollingshead, an Instructional Aide at Excel. “They’re learning how to understand codes, interpret them and apply them to a more comprehensive, cohesive whole.”
At the Rockets & Catapults station, students worked together to create small catapults using alka seltzer, a small plastic film canister, water, tissue, and clay. The goal was to make the film canister lid pop off and hit a target.
At the Toxic Popcorn station, students tried to get ‘toxic popcorn’ into a containment box so the hypothetical toxins wouldn’t spread. “[At this station,] we need to use our algorithmic thinking. We can’t get into the ‘toxic square,’ so we use teamwork to try to get the popcorn into the other bucket without touching it or going into the square,” explained Hawo Issa, a ninth grader at Excel. “I want to become a doctor one day and a doctor is part of a team, a medical team, and you have to use teamwork to help the people you want to save.”
David Denny, another Instructional Aide at Excel, emphasized the importance of the skills acquired through this CT challenge: “The idea is just to get them thinking critically about different ways to solve problems by thinking outside of the box. The best way they can succeed is by trying something out and if it doesn’t work, they can use that information and rework it. I think that’s the best thing about CT: teaching the kids to keep coming at the problem from different angles until they get the answer.”
All students at Green Dot schools in Washington State encounter computational thinking in their classes. At Green Dot, we believe teaching CT skills give students a competitive edge as career-bound adults as they obtain both the skillset and the confidence to face any real-world scenario head-on.