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News from the Foundation

Posted: April 2, 2018

Every Kid Can Code

North Star Elementary School is using money from the Success Award to teach students coding and robotics.

In the fall of 2017, North Star Elementary School was awarded a $25,000 Success Award from the APS Education Foundation after submitting an online application and presenting the “Every Kid Can Code” program to the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Misty Jaquez-Smith, Principal of North Star Elementary, said, “Anthony Lupinetti [of Open Source Kids] was a parent volunteer at North Star, and he taught some coding and robotics in various classes throughout the school. It started with him teaching in his own children’s classroom, and when the teachers saw how amazing the program was, they would see if he would be willing to go into their class to expose their children to this important information.

"Anthony and I started talking about what the possibilities were to completely expand the program, and we decided that we wanted to try it school-wide. We knew that it was going to be difficult to reach every single classroom so we thought that we would just start on a bi-weekly basis, but with the limited amount of equipment that he had, we knew that we needed to tap into a larger resource so that we could really expand the program. That’s when we saw the Success Award and we decided to apply and we were so pleased that we were the recipients. We’ve been able to expand the program to where every single classroom at North Star has coding and robotics. It’s been amazing.”

Mr. Lupinetti said, “This program will provide the students with fundamental knowledge in computer science, things like logic, how to think through a problem, how to make decisions, ‘if’s, ‘and’s, ‘or’s, how to make computers seem like their smart by making decisions, how to break apart problems, how to think critically, how to actually code in a real-life coding language, be it Scratch or Python programming language. They can actually make real-life programs all on their own.” 

On February 26, the APS Education Foundation Board of Directors invited donors to learn more about the program and to see how it has already impacted the students at North Star.

Clif Rinaldi of Grand Canyon University talked about why their investment and partnership with the Foundation continues to make sense. “At Grand Canyon University," he said, “we work with teachers to further their education. We’re in the schools, talking to the teachers, helping them excel to the next level to teach these students these technologies that the APS Education Foundation is helping them with.”

The Foundation is currently reviewing applications from APS administrators and teachers for the spring cycle of Success Awards to find innovative and impactful projects and programs in which to invest donor dollars.

Success Award at North Elementary School Video Transcript

ANTHONY LUPINETTI: So, what I see is initially they are interested in it but don't much about it. Largely students today are consumers. They use electronic devices, they know how to use them, but they don't know how to create with them. And what I see as the year progresses is a transformation where they start to become very excited about what they can do on their own, what ideas they have that they can turn into real life piece of equipment or real life program they can use. So I think that is a lot of the joy that students see in learning to code is the empowerment that it gives them, the being able to make something from their own mind the way they want it. So one of the foundations of any good education system is getting kids to work well together and computer science I think is a wonderful mechanism for that. There is something called team coding that professional coders use sometimes where one will set next to the computer and not, is not allowed to touch the computer, not allowed to control the computer in anyway, but observes and comments and helps while the other one steers, and I use that as a real live example to tell the children, even from kindergarten that coding is something that we do together, that it's a team effort and the only way that we can be successful at it is by working with other people to make our ideas happen and so I think in kindergarten that's challenging the first couple weeks but by the second or third month by sharing the robots in a certain order, in a certain way, we're encouraging them to show the behavior to the classmates that we would like.

MISTY JAQUEZ-SMITH: And I think with living in Albuquerque and the industry that we have in New Mexico, the idea that our kids will have an opportunity to stay here, work at the labs, work at Intel and other kind of industries that are involved in technology, I think that's one of the things that we find to be the most beneficial.

RON EPPES: So it is important for students to learn skills like coding. I recently read 30% of jobs within 20 years will be based on coding. It's actually even more dire than that because over 50% of the jobs that we consider high paying will be coding based jobs and so it is so important for us to start teaching these kids the, just the basic level of why coding is important and the basic skills of things like coding, because that's really gonna be their future, you know, it's no longer going to be an assembly line, those kind of jobs are going to be very rare, the jobs that are actually gonna be available on the market are things that are based on these kinds of skills.

JOE VARRO: A lot of times the donors support something, they don't have the opportunity to see what those dollars are being used for so I thought it was very nice to have business donors, supporters of APS foundation and APS schools come and see firsthand what their dollars are being used for.

CLIF RINALDI: Today was a great opportunity to see where the foundation dollars are going. To see the students and their interaction with the technology and for them to come in and show off how they're learning and how that's benefiting them in the classroom.

ANTHONY LUPINETTI: First of all I'd like to say thank you. I'd like them to know that their money is being well spent and I think they're funding things that our kids need to be successful in the future, and also to help keep them in our area. I would love if by learning to code and program robots, to learn technology and how to create with it, they would have jobs in this area that would keep them here in New Mexico and we wouldn't lose this wonderful talent so that their effort in funding the APS Foundation is providing kids with opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have and that benefits all of us.

CINDY GAILLOUR: If we could get this out there to other schools and help other students to learn how to code and to work with technology the way that our students have that opportunity that would be fabulous for other schools.