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.
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.
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.
In the computer-based Ancient Civilizations activity, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Voting Rights and Voter ID Laws
Students interview family members or neighbors about their experiences voting, and then analyze real footage from polling locations in neighborhoods around the country. Students then learn about the history of voting rights in the United States, drilling deep into the modern controversies around Voter ID laws.
Students explore geometric manipulations including reflections, translations, rotations and dilations using the Polygon Transformer web app. This tool can be used throughout the unit, and can also be leveraged to create homework and classwork assignments.
Computational Thinking at Excel Public Charter School