At Excel Public Charter School, we place a strong focus on integrating computational thinking within our curriculum across all disciplines. To us, computational thinking means solving hard problems of all kinds using ideas from computer science. These include algorithmic thinking, decomposition, pattern recognition and abstraction, as well as confidence in the face of ambiguity and tenacity to persist through challenges requiring iteration and experimentation.
Our computational thinking curriculum is freely provided here for you to incorporate within your own classrooms. You’ll find lessons divided into disciplines along the top of this and every other page. With these lessons and projects, we hope you will encourage your students to grow and flourish as computational thinkers, ready to face the real-world challenges of their generation!
New lessons are added to the site regularly – here are some of our favorites! For more, check the subject menus at the top of the page.
Basketball Motion Analysis
Students use decomposition to break down a specific LeBron James play from the 2015 NBA Finals. Students practice drawing and interpreting speed graphs, as well as discuss whether computers and data can replace human basketball coaches.
The Evolution of Zoe the Protozoa
Students take on the role of Zoe in the struggle to find food and adapt in an ever-changing changing environment. Starting as a lowly protozoa, Zoe and her species experience mutations, some of which are beneficial and some of which are quickly phased out over tens of thousands of years. Eventually, the simulation jumps forward in time and replaces Zoe with Berta, a simple bird facing similar challenges in her environment.
The Scramble for Africa
The Scramble for Africa is a simulation of the colonization of Africa from 1500 through 1900. Students take on the roles of major European countries and are given a dynamic set of objectives as they take turns claiming territory and resources across the map.
Writing Historical Fiction
Students interview an adult family member or neighbor about their experience with a significant historical tragedy as a child or young adult. Students research the event and combine facts with their interview responses to craft a historical fiction narrative told from the perspective of their interview subject. This project closely aligns with Christopher Paul Curtis’ “The Watsons Go to Birmingham”, but can be adapted to fit other historical fiction novels as well.
Students create their own civilization and see how it fares over the years based on choices they make for location, animals, plants and materials. Students trade resources between their civilizations, repeatedly go to war with unnamed enemies, and learn some fun facts about real-world ancient civilizations along the way.
Rational Football League
Students recruit a fantasy team of football players based on randomly generated statistics presented as ratios. To understand which player to draft for each position, students leverage ratio and proportional reasoning to compare the three options, ultimately deciding which stat they deem more important. Once their team is complete, students compete in the RFL Super Bowl, putting their six selections to the test to determine if they’d made the best choices or if their team would falter.
Designing a Solar System
Designing a Solar System is an activity that allows students to explore the dynamics of a fully-customizable set of celestial bodies. Starting with just a star and a planet in stable orbit, students can add planets, asteroids and meteors at varying distances and watch to see how each body’s orbit is affected. Students can freely play with this simulation, or can follow along with a worksheet to create specific solar system configurations.
Body System Amusement Parks
Students team up to create amusement parks based on the various systems and organs within the human body. With the power of abstraction, each attraction represents the cardiovascular system, the muscular system, the digestive system, etc. Teams create both 3D scale models and presentations to an unnamed wealthy investment firm looking to build a new park in the students’ very own town.
Mapping Earthquakes to Save the World
Students leverage real-time data to plot earthquakes on a world map. The fate of the world is in their hands – the President of the United States has asked for their help to save humankind. Students identify patterns in their data and connect earthquakes with tectonic plates, making recommendations back to the President about where people are safe and where people are most at risk.
Drawing with Coordinates
Students will create their own designs by plotting coordinate pairs on paper. They trade their list of coordinate pairs with a partner, who attempts to recreate the original image to see how accurate their algorithm was. Students then enter the same list of ordered pairs into the Coordinate Drawer web app and explore how changing points and reflections affect their designs.
Designing Greek Monuments in 3D
Students design new monuments to honor events in Greek history, Greek gods, or another aspect of Ancient Greece. After sketching their design on paper, students create their designs in 3D using the web-based modeling tool TinkerCad. Finally, students explain their creations in a short essay to accompany their designs
Making Babies with Punnett Squares
Students begin by identifying their own genetic traits, answering a series of questions about their facial features. As they input their phenotype, an animated cartoon representation of themselves as a baby is created. Students then randomly generate a second baby to "cross" with, and proceed to create new generations of babies by filling in Punnett Squares and by reading probabilities of expressed traits from Punnett Squares that are filled in for them.
Computational Thinking at Excel Public Charter School