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Preparing Kindergarteners For The Computer Science Jobs Of The Future

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Canon-McMillan School District
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At South Central Elementary School in the Canon-McMillan District, third-grader Faith Davis shows school board member Manuel Pihakis a project she's been working on as part of the school's programming curriculum.

Computer programming might sound like an advanced skill, but at the Canon-McMillan School District south of Pittsburgh, students are beginning to learn how to code right when they start elementary school.

This fall, the district partnered with national organization Code To The Future to introduce programming into its K-4 curriculum at three of its five elementary schools.

Using software called Scratch, originally developed at MIT,  South Central Elementary School second grader Morgan Bumer has been learning the basics, working with blocks of pre-written code to complete simple activities like guiding an animated character through a maze.

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Credit Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA
At South Central Elementary, second grade student Morgan Bumer (left) and fourth grade student Kamron Oelschlager have both started learning programming skills for the first time this fall.

Her class is also experimenting with a game in Scratch called "Make It Fly."

"You get a sprite, which is a character, and you get buildings and you use different codes to make the buildings move so it looks like your sprite is flying," said Bumer.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million new computer science jobs. 

"We believe that every child should be given the opportunity to learn this essential language," said Grace Lani, the districts curriculum director.

Lani said, next year, she would like to expand the new curriculum to all five elementary schools in the district.