Photo Courtesy of South Fayette Township School District.

There’s been a breakthrough in ed-tech in South Fayette Township School District, reports Digital Promise, a nonprofit that promotes empowered and innovative learning through technology and research. Congress authorized the organization in 2008.

““It happened one fateful rainy day” sounds more like the start of a romantic comedy than that of an ed-tech transformation. But in South Fayette Township, that’s what happened to an after-school program for technology and arts that eventually became a national model for incorporating computational thinking into a K-12 curriculum,” writes Erica Lawton on the organization’s website.

The architect behind the curriculum is champion Aileen Owens, the district’s Director of Technology and Innovation. When plans for an after-school STEAM program for girls got rained-out one day, Owens introduced the students to a computer-coding program. The creative program, called Scratch, lets users code as they develop their own stories and entertainment.

The program was a hit. And with the help of district teachers and students, Owens initiated after-school programs and K-12 curricula focused on teaching computational thinking through programs like Scratch, which engages critical thinking and design skills.

Throughout the district, students hone these key skills. “For instance, in elementary physical education class, students learn block-based coding. How? One student hops on the climbing rock wall while another “programs” her to the destination, with directions of “move two blocks left” or “one block up.” It teaches students logic and how processes guide much of the world,” Lawton writes.

“At the upper levels, students take courses in computer-assisted design and learn programming languages at their own pace with Codeacademy. A few high school students created an after-school coding class for other students. Another group created an educational app that they are beta testing in South Fayette elementary schools.”

In the article, Owens says that she aims to create innovative leaders and thinkers through these district-wide efforts. So far, the South Fayette School District proves to be an important model for improving and creating learning opportunities.

“It’s fitting that this all started with an after-school program for girls. Diversity and gender equity is important to South Fayette as it promotes STEAM skills and careers. An internal survey showed nearly 90 percent of students, including both boys and girls, who were introduced to programming at the elementary level cite a love of making, building and designing, and want more challenges in programming, Owens said.”

Read the full story here.

Maeve has just completed her freshman year at Wellesley College, where she plans to major in Economics. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, and a lifelong resident of Shadyside, she is a graduate of The Ellis School. Maeve is happy to be back in Pittsburgh for the summer and, when away at college, she remains passionate about Pittsburgh and her Pug Dog, Perry.