Computer Science Project Highlights Changemakers

“What does it mean to be a changemaker?”

Computer Science Teacher Michele Lombardi posed this question to her grade 5 students in Creative Computing class. In-person and remote learners raised their hands and chimed in with different answers. “It means to be confident,” said one student. Another suggested it meant being helpful. A third said it meant being inventive. Students compiled their descriptors into a word bubble and agreed that a changemaker is someone who is brave, someone who is kind, and someone who perseveres.
With their brains buzzing with ideas of changemakers big and small, the class kicked off their first multi-step computer science project. Tasked with animating an interaction with someone they considered to be a changemaker, the class first considered who they would choose before researching facts about that person and crafting questions to ask them.

“Students had full autonomy and creative freedom in picking who they wanted to research,” shared Ms. Lombardi. “I wanted them to pick someone of personal significance to them so that they felt confident in their choice because they already had an affinity for that person.”

After selecting and researching their changemaker, students used Scratch, an online programming tool, to code movements and animations. They used broadcast and receive blocks to get the timing just right for their conversations with the end goal of educating their classmates about why their person is inspirational in a user-friendly way. Along the way, students troubleshot technical challenges, analyzed and debugged faulty code, and shared different ideas with each other on how to best use the tool. 

The wide array of people the Class of 2028 highlighted made it clear that they believe that changemakers come in many different forms. They animated well-known changemakers like Serena Williams, Jane Goodall, and Kamala Harris, and changemakers in their own spheres like their music teacher or their mom. 

Fifth grader Molly Rosenson decided to honor her personal hero, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG). “I love RBG—she is my role model. She changed the world in my opinion. I was her in the fourth grade wax museum project, so I knew I wanted to interview her as my changemaker.”

For students, the Interview with a Changemaker project presented an opportunity to combine their own interests with their burgeoning tech and problem-solving skills. Just like the changemakers they look up to, students had to exercise adaptability as they iterated and improved when their first attempt didn’t go as planned. After all, no programmer, Olympian, or Supreme Court Justice gained their skills overnight—they had to work at it over time, and slowly build their confidence through trial and error and practice.

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