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K-12 Computational Thinking Pathway

Transforming traditional education by embedding computational thinking, engineering, and human-centered design thinking for every student.

At South Fayette School District, students are designing musical instruments out of cardboard and copper wire, then programming them to play music. They’re coding commands to make robots solve challenges with motors and sensors. And that’s just in second grade. At each grade level, K to 12, students’ computational thinking grows deeper and more complex through a series of interrelated projects.



HundrED shortlisted this innovation

HundrED has shortlisted this innovation to one of its innovation collections. The information on this page has been checked by HundrED.

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January 2019
Through this pathway we are preparing our students with the knowledge, skills, dispositions and experiences they need to be successful in the future of work and life.

About the innovation

How does the K-12 Computational Thinking Pathway work?

South Fayette Township School District’s STEAM Studio model for computational thinking, creates a robust computer science, engineering, and design thinking pathway for each and every student. Our nationally recognized curriculum begins in kindergarten and scaffolds from grade to grade, building to building, continuing through high school.

South Fayette’s STEAM Studio embeds computational thinking into the curriculum, treating it as another discipline, just like history, math, English, and science. Students move from block-based coding in elementary school to writing text-based code in middle and high school. Teams of students program mobile apps using Arduino boards and Raspberry Pis, and solve problems posed by local businesses. They complete challenges using robotics, and are immersed in creative entrepreneurship as they move from ideation to 3D product prototype, learning to create products and services for social good.

To cultivate a culture of innovation at South Fayette and accommodate this transformational curriculum, the district created systems for embedding innovative learning experiences into the school day. Every school building has a dedicated maker space or prototype lab. Incubator programs enrich and deepen after-school connected learning experiences. New STEAM teacher positions and reimagined existing positions make curriculum implementation possible. And district leadership has focused on creating a profile of a graduate with the skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary for students to be successful in the future of work in the changing global economy. Through this initiative, we have discovered joy in the creative spirit.

Through the support of the local foundations, research institutions, universities, and businesses, South Fayette is scaling this model to school districts in Pennsylvania and Kentucky to make this powerful curriculum accessible to more schools and students. Developing an education system that builds the capacities our children need to be innovative thought leaders became one of our core values, and lies at the heart of the transformation that has taken place in the district. Our hope is to share what we’ve learned to help other districts realize these capacities, and give as many students as possible the chance to experience a robust K-12 education in computational thinking.

Implementation steps

Articulate a well-defined vision
Begin with your leadership team. Create literature groups to share new ideas as you formulate your own. Make visits to institutions that are following similar paths and learn from them. Then articulate a well-defined vision for each stakeholder group as you begin reaching out.
Create a culture of innovation

Engage your leadership team and your teachers in book study groups to begin developing the idea of the emerging innovation process. Here are two thought-provoking books to begin the process of changing your school culture:

Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries by Peter Sims

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspirationby Ed Catmull

Build a team and structure to implement & protect new ideas

Institutions are not designed to embrace new ideas because new ideas are imperfect. It's easier to manage an institution that runs smoothly. Therefore create a team and structure in which to protect new ideas and nurture their growth. Through time we created new STEAM teacher positions for each building, remade existing positions to better serve the computer science pathway and built spaces (STEAM studios and maker spaces) that supported this new type of learning.

Learn more here: <>

Use incubators to test and grow new ideas

Incubators take many forms. They can be simple action research projects in the classroom, or they can be after-school connected learning experiences that through time and after development, work their way into the classroom. Create an incubator, a proof of concept, and track its success and challenges. Be ready to pivot when your discoveries take you in a new direction. Teachers and stakeholders gain confidence when they see the results.

To learn more follow this link: <>

Value and Promote Student and Teacher Agency
Focus on developing an environment where teachers are valued and can teach with their vision and students can discover their passion. Everyone in your organization needs the opportunity to develop their voice and to experience being creative thought leaders. The curriculum and the educational process must reflect strategies that open opportunities for all learners. Evaluate your entire system and slowly redefine all that you know to meet these needs.
Prepare your students for the future of work

As described in The Future of Learning: Education in the Era of Partners in Code authored by Knowledgworks, we are entering a new era of work fueled by advances in artificial intelligence and the decline of full-time employees. Combining new technologies with cultural, economic and institutional shifts means that we must ensure that education systems support the knowledge, skills, dispositions and experiences that our students need to be successful in the changing global economy. Our district is aligning curriculum and organizational strategies to create an educational system that prepares our students with core skills and practices to navigate and thrive in the future of work in their career, and in life. Check out Knowledgeworks for an easy to follow framework. <>

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