Building Community Capacity to Design and Define K12 Computer Science

Sketch of a student working on a computer.

Computer science is becoming part of K12 education--but what should it look like? 

Project description

There is broad agreement that computer science (CS) should be part of K12 education. Standardized online curricula have gone a long way toward providing broader access to CS learning opportunities, but until CS coursework engages with local cultures and communities, they may not feel relevant, interesting, welcoming, and safe. This project's goal is to build community capacity for designing relevant, responsive CS coursework. The first step is to build a community of students with some CS experience. Later some of these students will help teach a class for adults in the community; then a committee of students, parents, teachers, and admins will study different models of CS coursework and make a recommendation to the district.

We are looking for research assistants to help with two parts to this project:

  1. Help teach a free after-school course at Lockport High School, from February-May 2023. The course is structured as a sequence of labs introducing new skills and ideas, and then an open-ended project. During class, teaching assistants will help students design, plan, debug, and refactor their projects, and participate in discussions on the broader significance of the ideas we explore. Teaching assistants will also take field notes during class, documenting the learning they observe for later discussion.
  2. Curriculum development, refinement, and testing. The course uses the Making With Code curriculum, developed by Dr. Proctor and colleagues over the last three years. The course uses a Constructionist approach, collaborating on personally-meaningful projects while getting to know computers as partners in thought. Research assistants will work through the curriculum, compile lists of issues (errors, inconsistencies, and clarifications), and help fix them. 

Project outcome

The project outcome is a successful extracurricular course introducing computer science to high school students. There is potential for research assistants to continue working on the project past the spring 2023 semester. 

Project details

Timing, eligibility and other details
Length of commitment About 3-5 months
Start time Spring (January/February) 
In-person, remote, or hybrid? In-person
Level of collaboration Small group project (2-3 students)
Benefits Stipend 
Who is eligible All undergraduate students w/ Intermediate Python skills

Core partners

  • Lockport City School District 

Project mentor

Chris Proctor

Assistant professor of Learning Sciences

Learning and Instruction

Phone: (323) 230 0313


Start the project

  1. Email the project mentor using the contact information above to express your interest and get approval to work on the project. (Here are helpful tips on how to contact a project mentor.)
  2. After you receive approval from the mentor to start this project, click the button to start the digital badge. (Learn more about ELN's digital badge options.) 

Preparation activities

Once you begin the digital badge series, you will have access to all the necessary activities and instructions. Your mentor has indicated they would like you to also complete the specific preparation activities below. Please reference this when you get to Step 2 of the Preparation Phase. 

Read three articles which are the context for this project:

Proctor, C., Bigman, M., & Blikstein, P. (2019). Defining and designing computer science education in a k-12 public school district. In E. Hawthorne & M. Pérez-Quiñones (Eds.) Proceedings of the 50th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE ’19). (pp. 314-320). ACM. LINK:

Proctor, C., Han, J., Wolf, J., Ng, K., & Blikstein, P. (2020). Recovering Constructionism in computer science: Design of a ninth-grade introductory computer science course. In B. Tangney, J. Rowan Byrne, & C. Girvan (Eds.) Proceedings of the 2020 Constructionism Conference. (pp. 473-481). Dublin, Ireland: University of Dublin. LINK:

Kafai, Y.B. & Proctor, C. (2021) A Revaluation of Computational Thinking in K-12 Education: Moving Towards Computational Literacies. Educational Researcher. LINK:


computer science, computer science education, teaching, learning, education, learning and instruction, design, learning and instruction