Lowell Public Schools held its annual Civics Day project fair at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center on Monday, April 4, 2022.
There were 54 projects presented—10 from Lowell High School and 44 from the district’s nine middle schools.
In total, 240 students participated, including all of the district’s 8th graders and half of the 11th graders.
Each participating class chose an issue, conducted research and interviews, crafted possible solutions and figured out how to begin advocating for change. In the process they learned how to access and communicate effectively with decision makers at the school, local, and state level and hone important skills they will use throughout their lives.
CS Pathways project teacher Gabriella Walsh, an 8th grade teacher at the Pyne Arts Magnet School, included app design as part of her project’s requirements. Her students chose to address the problem of teen vaping, and developed the VAPR app as part of their work—Vaping Awareness Prevention and Rehabilitation.
The VAPR project won the “Grassroots Change” award. Ms. Walsh and her students will be heading to the Massachusetts Civics Day event in Boston on June 6.
To carry out the district-wide civics work, Lowell Public Schools is partnered with Generation Citizen, a non-profit that works to “transform civics education so that young people are equipped and inspired to exercise their civic power.”
The CS Pathway project is proud of Gabriella Walsh and her students example of integrating computing into their civics action work!
The Curriculum Guide is a detailed index to more than 30 nationally recognized K-12 computer science curricula. It was developed by Jim Stanton and Farzeen Harunani of Educational Development Center, Inc. (EDC), as part of the Massachusetts Computing Attainment Network (MassCAN) project.
The Curriculum Guide It was developed by resource for MA superintendents, and was released on October 28, 2017.
Project principal investigator Fred Martin was an invited presenter at Autodesk Design Computing Symposium, a full-day event held on November 16, 2016 in Las Vegas, NV as part of Autodesk’s annual conference. The Design Computing Symposium focused on ways that computing is changing how we conceive, design, and create in our world.
Martin presented CS Pathways’ vision of democratizing computing by empowering middle school students to create mobile apps. His presentation situated the CS Pathways project in a 50-year history of educational computing research.
Martin highlighted how students’ apps, while simple, build community in the classroom. He demonstrated two apps from students’ school-year work: The Motivational App, which speaks positive affirmations to the user, and Languages4u, in which students recorded themselves saying “hello” in their home languages.
Both apps were developed by students of Denise Salemi, who was the technology teacher at the Keverian School in Everett during the project’s first year.
Project principals Akira Kamiya and Molly Laden delivered a presentation Integrating Project-Based Computing at the MassCUE conference at Gillette Stadium (Foxboro, MA) on October 19, 2016.
The session traced the project’s trajectory from professional development to implementation as CS Pathways enters its third year.
About a dozen teachers attended, all of whom were planning computer science instruction using MIT App Inventor.
The team presented the curriculum developed by CS Pathways teachers and gave an introduction to App Inventor programming. Teachers interacted with apps developed by project students, including the Cheese Around the World app, the Motivational App, and the Everett Landmarks app.
Materials from the presentation, including the slide show and sample curricula for 6th and 8th grades, may be downloaded from bit.ly/cspathways-masscue2016.
Thirteen middle school students completed the CS Pathways app design camp held at Everett High School from July 11 through July 15. The camp was based on the use of MIT App Inventor, a blocks-based programming system for creating apps for Android tablets and phones.
The students were joined by two community partners:
Gina Matarazzo from Energize Everett, which works to “increase opportunities for Everett residents to eat healthy and be active in the places they live, learn, work, and play”
The community partners met with the students at the beginning of the week to share with the students their own personal stories and the missions of their organizations.
Ms. Matarazzo spoke about how she works with kids and adults to set goals and help them keep track of their progress in becoming more health conscious.
Ms. Schuler described her work helping a local wild species called the Blanding Turtle, once widely seen in Eastern Massachusetts, make a recovery. This turtle recently has seen its numbers decline as local wetlands are taken away by development.
The students then worked in pairs to brainstorm ideas and develop apps to assist with these missions. This year, campers used AppVis, a new technology developed by UMass Lowell which allows App Inventor users to publish data to the web-based iSENSE database.
By the end of the week, the students had developed eight apps, which are now published in the Google Play app store. The students developed six healthy-eating apps and two turtle conservation apps, including:
GrassRoots: The Wild Side, by Kiara Cordero and Aroshi Rahnuma. This app teaches you how to recognize turtles, take photographs of them, and publish turtle sightings.
Health, by Lulya Tesfamicael. This app provides information about healthy eating and exercise, lets you set goals for personal weight loss, and shows you a graph of your progress over time.
At the end of the week, the community partners returned to see the students’ work. Ms. Matarazzo remarked, “I was so fascinated by how innovative the kids were in creating the apps that met our specific needs. Their excitement and enthusiasm for not only building their app but also their interest in thinking about health and fitness was so inspiring.”
The camp lead teachers were Damian DeMarco and Lori Blank. UMass Lowell graduate students Farzeen Harunani and Mark Sherman and undergraduates Ashley Hale and Michael Kusmirek assisted throughout the week. Project staff member Akira Kamiya led camp logistics and also worked with students throughout the week.
Healthy Eating, developed by Butaina D. and Joelle B., which includes advice on healthy foods, an original game involving an image of a stomach and a set of food icons to be moved into it, and the Team Medford web site.
Wind Turbine and Solar Panel, developed by George B., which is an educational app that teaches you about Medford’s wind turbine and solar energy, and includes a quiz where you can test what you learned.
The camp lead teachers were Damian DeMarco, Jessica Hamerly, Amy Lieberman, and Fred Martin. UMass Lowell graduate students Farzeen Harunani and Mark Sherman and undergraduates Ashley Hale and Michael Kusmirek assisted throughout the week. Project staff member Akira Kamiya led camp logistics and also worked with students throughout the week.
The Medford camps have kicked off with a resounding success!
4 instructors, and 19 campers arrived at the McGlynn Middle School, this week to start learning and exploring about making apps that run on Android mobile devices.
Our concept is to make learning computer science more fun and accessible. And based on the attentive work and very often smiling faces, I would say that we all have been doing an OK job!
The campers began Monday, learning basic block coding skills, using an MIT-developed programming environment called App Inventor. The campers started camp making an app that speaks synthetic language using App Inventor’s Text to Speech component.
Then we got the kids jumping (literally!). Using an App Inventor component that measures acceleration, campers made apps that recorded the number of times they jump while holding their tablet. After everyone was done, we had a 10 second Jump Off Contest. One pair of campers managed to jump 29 times in 10 seconds, incredible! The average camper pair jumped 26 times. Fred Martin remarked that when he did this with older programmers they got an average of 10! So these kids have energy!
Campers were also shown how to send this information on their jump sessions to a single online database from which the whole camp could see each other’s data. This is called “crowd sourcing,” and from it we could quickly see how others did with their jumps! Campers will be able to use this ability to make apps that collect data from out in the community for others to analyze and maybe even make decisions that can affect the community in some beneficial way!
A busy day, right? But there was more! A key critical part of this camp is encourage community connections. Not only does it feel good to have campers work with community members, but research shows that kids get more engaged if the work they do relates to the real world.
So in the afternoon on the first day, we invited three exciting community partners. Alicia Hunt came from Medford’s Department of Energy and Environment. She talked about the City’s work with the windmill and also the City’s work helping to preserve the environment. Our second partner was Shanasia Sylman from the Mystic River Watershed Conservation Association. She talked about how in Medford they were concerned with making sure there was ample green space around and near the river in which people could recreate and walk around. Lastly, we had Syrah McGivern, also from the City of Medford, speak about her work with Team Medford, which focuses on making sure all Medford residents have opportunity and access to healthy food and places to exercise.
Shanasia talks with the campers about the Mystic Watershed Conservation Association
After they presented, everyone gathered around and we discussed ways we could use our skills in making apps so that we could help these organizations with their work in the community. The rest of the week will be devoted to making a final app that they can present back to the community partners and maybe even have the app uploaded to the Google Play Store for all to use!