Pocahontas High Computer Sciences Students Teach Middle School Students
Pocahontas County High School offers a Computer Science class that may just be the first such class offered in a West Virginia High School. It came about through the efforts of PCHS Math Teacher Laurel Dilley who had the foresight to realize that Computer Science and Programming will play a huge role in future employment opportunities for today’s high school students. Dilley bases the class on a UCLA curriculum entitled “Exploring Computer Science”, an entry level computer course. Some local expert help is provided by NRAO Computer Engineers Ray Creager and Paul Marganian who donate time to work with her students.
The class has exposed students to new career possibilities. Her students are excited about this and are sharing some of their excitement and knowledge with Middle School students in hopes of spreading interest in Computer Science to future high school students. Dilley hopes that the Computer Science curriculum at PCHS will grow and eventually be available to all students, not just seniors as it is now.
Dilley’s high school students were at Marlinton Middle School on December 15th and at Green Bank Middle on the 17th.
Middle School 8th graders were invited to attend 4 breakout sessions, each taught by a pair of High School computer Science students. The sessions were:
- Cryptology, presented by seniors J.D. Hensler and Goldie McClure. They explained that hiding messages using passwords and codes dates back to Julius Caesar who used a simple code by shifting letters up or down the alphabet. The students were given some simple exercises in decoding messages.
- Binary Computer Code, presented by Austin Hubberd and Kaylin Murry who explained that computers operate on a simple “on-off” or “zero -one” binary decimal system, and gave the students some simple exercises in reducing any number into a “zero ( off) or a 1 (on)” binary system.
- Python Computer Programming Language presented by seniors Chase Alkire and Michael Leyzorek. They
explained Python was developed as a simpler and quicker programming language, and soon had the younger students programming their computer stations to display a message “Hello World” using the Python language.
- And an Introduction to Scratch drag and drop programming presented by seniors Samantha Collins and Dalton Irvine. They taught their students to program figures to move around a screen and do things using this simple programming tool developed at MIT as a learning tool for children.
Senior J.D. Hensler explains that Computer Science is not just about computers.
“I am J.D. Hensler and our Computer Science class is here and we’re trying to get the message out about Computer Science and how broad the field is” said J.D. “Everyone thinks Computer Science is just on computers and that’s all it’s about, but it helps in so much more. It improves your problem solving; it improves your logic; it improves your brain in general and it’s a really- really helpful field.”
His teaching partner, Senior Goldie McClure expands on this.
“A lot of people their first thought about Computer Science is ‘ok there’s a bunch of people sitting by computers not ever doing anything else” said Goldie. “But, it does have to do with computers, it just has to do with so much more. Like there’s a ton of logic and critical thinking to be able to stick with a project and figure out what might be wrong with it if something messes up. It’s not always going to be obvious , so you have to know when to think ‘maybe I should look here’ and you have to need to know what might need to be fixed and it’s not always obvious at all.”
It was exciting to watch each of these pairs of students spread their knowledge and enthusiasm to the younger students who seemed just as excited to hear about the field. There was an introductory video featuring giants in the computer field such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who explained that there are millions more computer programming jobs open than there are trained programmers to fill them, and these are high paying jobs with great amenities.
Let’s hope that Laurel Dilley’s Computer Science class expands and inspires future Pocahontas County High School students to qualify for some of those unfilled high tech jobs.