The Covid-19 pandemic served as a catalyst for leveraging technology to enhance Prep for Prep’s programming. Each student received a Prep for Prep email address and Zoom became the virtual meeting platform of choice. Computer science also has been incorporated into the Preparatory Component curriculum, an addition long championed by Dale Allsopp (VII), Ads Responsibility Officer at Google.
Nikole Smith, Director of Academic Programs, says the addition was an effort to help students remain competitive with their independent school peers. “During our visits to independent schools, we noticed an increased emphasis on computer science,” says Nikole. “Our students were hesitant to consider those classes because they didn’t have a foundation in the subject.”
“There’s a digital divide,” agrees Willie Dominguez, the Preparatory Component Computer Science Teacher. “Independent school kids are picking this up at three years old. Many public schools don’t introduce the subject until fourth or fifth grade.”
During their second summer in Preparatory Component, many Prep students take PIMAS: TPR (Term Paper Research), a companion course to PIMAS (Problems and Issues in Modern American Society.) Each student researches a societal issue and writes a term paper about it. This paper is brought to life using technology. During the class, students learn how to create their own website, infographics, podcasts, and presentations using programs such as Google Sites and Slides, Pixlr, We Video, Scratch, and Nearpod.
Preparatory Component students also have the option of taking a computer science class, a five-day-a-week course in which they learn coding. Students are given prompts, such as “What do you think society will look like in 10 years?” Using coding, they design a digital response to these questions. Virtual reality allows the students to share their creations with their classmates.
Computer science topics have also been introduced in PREP 9’s science classes. In addition, Prep students have the option of choosing computer science as an after school activity. The knowledge developed through the Preparatory Component computer science curriculum is built upon in programs for older students, including Entrepreneurship Camp (see article on page 13) and the Institute for Entrepreneurship, two optional summer programs that guide students in using technology to create businesses that can address societal issues.
In addition to technical skills, students learn the importance of digital citizenship. “Our identity follows us and our digital footprint never goes away,” says Willie. “Responsible use is really important."