University of Minnesota Duluth

Second Grade Field Trip - What is Computer Science?

Authors: Dr. Pete Willemsen
Projects: Haptic Terrain Display|Learning To Code|GEnUSiS
Published: May 2, 2013

Congdon Park Field Trip - Learning about Computer Science

On Thursday, May 2, a second grade class from Congdon Park Elementary in Duluth, MN visited UMD’s Department of Computer Science’s SIVE Lab. SIVE stands for Simulation and Interaction in Virtual Environments and is operated by Dr. Pete Willemsen. The purpose of the field trip was to teach the 2nd graders about what computer science is like and what we as computer scientists do.

Specifically, seven stations were setup in the SIVE Lab to provide exposure, engaging experiences, and an education to the 2nd graders to a variety of computer science related topics.

Each station focused on a small and specific subset of computer science ranging from what a computer is, how we represent the alphabet on a computer using binary numbers, how computers can be programmed using Scratch, to how we use computers to help scientists. Additionally, we sought volunteers from the CS graduate program and the CS undergraduates to ensure a diverse and even mix of cultures and genders. This was purposeful in that we wanted to make sure the 2nd graders interacted with an inclusive and diverse group of students. In particular, I wanted to make sure each student observed a broad spectrum of people (men and women) being computer scientists.

Below is a summary of the stations that we prepared. The second grade class was split into 7 groups of 3-4 students each. Each group spent 12 minutes at each station interacting with the students, equipment, and computers.

The primary goal of the field trip was simple. Teach the students a little about what it means to be a computer scientist. Our focus, much like the lab’s focus, was interdisciplinary in nature, hi-lighting areas where computer scientists work collaboratively with researchers and scientists to provide greater understanding and knowledge about our world.


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