Computer Science in Preschool

Stem School

            Preschool has been working hard to incorporate Computer Science into their curriculum in an authentic way.  Three, four and five year olds have been “playing” with Beebots, a code-able device, and Cubelets, modular robots, during center exploration time.  This inquiry-based model allows students to explore the concepts of computer science at their own pace, in their own way.  This learning has positively impacted student our preschoolers. They are developing 21st Century skills, specifically collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking.  As they explore new technologies and learn how they work, they begin  to connect this learning to other, bigger concepts.  For instance when students can program a Beebot to follow a path, they understand the concept of sequencing, order, and first, next, last.  Students also begin to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills.  They try, fail, think about what happened and what went wrong, and reiterate, or change their plan to meet their needs.   Preschoolers are also working on computational thinking skills, that is to say, they develop meaningful answers, connections and solutions to problems that can be generalized to other problems, using data, decomposition and other skills. 

 

As we move forward in education, looking for innovators, problem solvers and critical thinkers, what we need to teach students is changing. For example, it's not enough to know how to count in primary grades; we have to know why we count and when counting will help solve a problem.  In preschool, this might mean counting how many friends are at a table to know how many napkins to put out for snack.  In addition to developing specific skills, robotics helps kids develop strategies about how to function in our world.  In preschool, we mostly use beebots and cubelets as our robotics component.  However, we do some "unplugged" work as well with computer science.  Students are engaged in Collaboration and (a preschool version of) Ethics and Global Impact. These are strands from CSTA (Computer Science Teacher's Association) that we use in elementary school to guide our growth and development in computer science. 

 

The most important idea to get across to parents and other educators is that it doesn't have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time to get started.  Start small.  Visit code.org for preschool / beginning programming options.  Check out websites for young students.  Shop for games and books that work on “unplugged” coding and computer science skills.  Anything you do will be a great beginning.