Initiative pushes computer science in Bronx schools

A representative from C/I showing a teacher some of the resources at Code/Bronx

A representative from Code/Interactive shows a teacher some of the resources at the launch of Code/Bronx on Dec. 8.

A professional development nonprofit and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. together announced the launch of a new initiative to incorporate computer science and coding classes in all Bronx schools, from elementary to high school.

The nonprofit, Code/Interactive, will lead Code/Bronx, a project inspired by the mayor’s Computer Science for All initiative. Representatives of the group joined Diaz to make the announcement at Boricua College in Melrose on Dec. 8, concurrent with Computer Science Education Week. 
“We want to strengthen coding courses for students and take what they’re learning to the next level,” said Patricia Peña Carty, assistant principal at University Heights High School, at the launch. She pointed out that there are four teachers in that school’s science and technology program, but more are needed.

De Blasio’s plan requires all schools to offer computer science programs within the next 10 years. The $81 million public-private partnership has received support from CSNYC, the city’s arm of the mayoral initiative, along with the Robin Hood Foundation and the AOL Charitable Foundation.

The initiative calls for nonprofits like Code/Interactive to train teachers to teach computer science and instruct the Department of Education on how to manage the programs. Training for those tasks is sorely needed, said Jeff Palladino, the principal of Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in Soundview, who addressed the crowd at the launch.

“It’s hard to find computer science teachers,” said Palladino, whose students have participated in projects run by Code/Interactive for three years. The group has mostly earned its keep by providing professional development training for high school faculty, but will begin matching elementary and middle schools with available low-cost or free resources as its next objective.

Though funding from the mayoral initiative is primarily aimed for training, the Borough President’s office can allocate funds for technology upgrades and infrastructure improvements, fulfilling another need.

“I think it’s a natural fit for students because they already have the knowledge of technology,” said Monica Major, director of education and youth services at the Borough President’s office. “Where we are right now, it’s about the teachers and helping them engage the students.”

Students who have participated in Code/Interactive internships told teachers that learning computer science has made a big difference in their education.

“There’s a lot of people who want to code and want the opportunity,” said Fannie Lou Hamer student Shaoulin Vega, 18. “Why not give them an opportunity to see what they want to do?”