Computer science (CS) is revolutionizing all of our lives. Innovations in computation drive our economy and underlie almost all our advances in science and engineering. To flourish in today’s world, everyone needs to understand not only how to effectively use computers and technology, but also computational thinking. Computational thinking involves specifying solutions so precisely that even computers can follow the directions. Although computational thinking is a fundamental skill for everyone, not just for computer scientists, most individuals are not exposed to it.
Students from UW-Madison are teaching computational thinking to next generation by leading after-school CaTaPuLTclubs for 4th and 5th graders. CaTaPuLT refers to Computational Thinking, Programming, Logic, and Technology. Our clubs focus on the creative aspects of computation; one of the empowering aspects of computation is that individuals are not limited to being passive users of technology and can create their own original games, stories, and interactive art. We use the Scratch programming environment for Programming and these creative aspects.
Our clubs are held weekly and work with the same group of kids each week. Each club is approximately one hour long and runs for 10-12 weeks. Three UW-Madison students co-lead each club; the UW students are enrolled in a service-learning course, CS 402, to obtain the skills to lead these clubs.