News / Insights

Bringing #CSEdWeek to Chicago Public Libraries

Computer Science Education Week is an annual call to action to engage and inspire youth through learning opportunities, to advocate for equity in the landscape, and to champion those who work year-round preparing the next generation of computer scientists. Thanks to grants from CSforALL, CME Group Foundation, and Lego Education, CLX has been able to engage in this work through our CSforCHI program. In 2020, we worked with community partners to create the CSforCHI Strategic Plan—which you can read on our community site.

With this year's CSEdWeek as our first touchpoint, we partnered with two Chicago Public Library branches and began to take action on that plan.

Our efforts for CSEdWeek began back in our November Community Meetup. There, the community heard from Sara Neiman of TechGirlz about the large set of free curriculums and programs they offered to empower young girls and encourage them to pursue computer science careers.

We followed Sara's presentation by sharing the history of our CSforCHI work, insights from recent conversations across the community, and promoting the upcoming weeklong initiative. Additionally, we shared our intent for creating equitable, collaborative, and pathway-generating computer science programming as we move our CSforCHI program forward. For a closer look, please see our community site for a video recording and slide decks. Below is a look at one of our breakout questions and its responses.

CSEdWeek provided an opportunity to model the type of programming that we are looking to foster with CSforCHI. In the last we months, we did a lot of listening before taking action. We heard from educators that they wanted to see more programming in the out-of-school space that was accessible at a neighborhood level. Program providers shared their desire to widen their reach and community organizations shared their desire to expand on their current pool of programming. In speaking to families, they shared their wish for collaboration that brings more resources to their neighborhood but also highlights what they have to offer within it. Taking in this input, we reached out to select libraries to help us deliver the Code Your Hero curriculum developed by Google for Education. Back of the Yards Library and Legler Regional Library agreed with enthusiasm.

With programs secured in the South and West sides of Chicago, the next step was to bring in the experts. Our partners at CME Group Foundation helped us recruit volunteers internally from their development teams and Sonata Roeder, Software Engineer and Purdue alumnus, answered the call. We also sought out representative educators to help us out and Aurelius Raines II, who presented on Low-Cost Coding and Making earlier this year and grew up visiting his grandmother down the block from the Legler branch, stepped up to help.

Our Back of the Yards program occurred on Wednesday, December 8th. Branch Manager, Pedro Leon, and Children's Librarian, Lucas Sifuentes, plugged us into their existing Family Game Day. It was a wonderful turn of events that happened as one of the boys participating lost interest in the activity but their mother remained engaged. Intergenerational learning is crucial for empowering youth brilliance and it was wonderful to see it play out with success. Neyen took us to class on the other side of the room as he debugged our code on the projector screen.

Brandy Morrill, Librarian and the Children's Department Manager, invited us into their community room on Thursday, December 9th for a special Young Coders program at Legler. They currently host a Young Maker Club Program every other Thursday so this was a perfect opportunity to plug into an existing crowd as this was an off week for that program. While I led the Back of the Yards program, Aurelius took the reins here and led the program with the utmost joy. The kids were smiling throughout the program as he supplemented the instructions on the screen. Intergenerational learning was also a highlight of this day's programming as two library staff took the opportunity to sit in and learn along with the youth as impromptu professional development. Their goal was to skill up and perhaps deliver similar programming down the line.

We are grateful for the experiences we were able to deliver and the learnings we take away from these exercises. For future CSEdWeeks, we would like to begin planning for events sooner in the year and build a more robust set range of offerings by tapping into more community organizations and program providers. CSEdWeek has repeatedly been somewhat difficult to schedule with it being right in the middle of the holiday season. This year those struggles were exacerbated by the ongoing pandemics and current challenges at CPS around SOPPA. Despite that, this year was a clear success and we are happy to have made an impact on the participating youth and grateful to our partners who made it all possible. We hope your CSEdWeek was as good for you as it was for us. Shoot us an email and let's work together to reach and engage youth and families to build interest in computer science.