Computer Science Before College: How to Get Ahead at an Early Age
Working in the tech industry offers many benefits, one of which is the lucrative pay. As we push further into digitalization, professionals with computer science degrees will become more in demand. It’s never too early to start learning tech skills, so take a look at our guide to studying computer science before college.
Why Is It Important to Study CS at an Early Age?
It is important to study computer science at an early age because it helps students develop discipline and get set up for more tech courses in the future. Exposing kids to computer science will teach them to be problem-solvers. It will also make them more confident in their ability to learn complex concepts in math and science.
Kids have an easier time learning foreign languages and concepts than adults do. Computer science involves learning coding languages, which serve the same purpose. A child’s mind is like a blank piece of paper, and they acquire knowledge as they grow.
If you want your tech-savvy kids to become software engineers, project managers, or other experts, now is the time to start exposing them. When introduced to complex subjects at a young age, you train them to think out of the box. Plus, with all the resources available today, learning computer science concepts can be fun.
Teaching computer science skills to children can set them on a path to a computer science degree or a career as a software developer. Below, we cover computer science courses and resources for kids from elementary through high school. If your child is interested in technology, the sources on this list can help foster that knowledge.
What Is Computer Science?
Computer science refers to the study of computational systems and computers. It deals with software, network systems, application, development, design, and theory. Those who work in this field also study computing theories, bioinformatics, software engineering, programming languages, and numerical analysis.
Furthermore, computer science students can also study graphic design, human and computer interactions, database systems, and artificial intelligence. A career as a computer scientist involves analyzing and designing algorithms used to study computer software and hardware performance and solve program issues.
When Should Children Start Studying Computer Science?
If your child is already interested in technology and computer science, there’s no reason they shouldn’t start today. There are resources for preschool and kindergarten-aged kids to learn to code. In a recent report, NPR explored Kodable as one of the best computer science education tools for kids five years old or younger.
Since most elementary schools don’t have a curriculum that includes computer science, it’s important to find learning tools that suit your kids. For older teens, there are sometimes options like AP Computer Science offered at schools following advanced placement curriculum. Online courses and coding games can be great for younger kids.
According to Code.org’s co-founder, Hadi Partovi, the purpose of teaching computer science to children is about training kids to be part of the globally competitive job market later in life. They can keep the economy strong and set themselves up for successful and rewarding careers.
Learning Computer Science in Elementary School
In 2017, a study by West Coast Analytics found that students who took AP computer science were 12 percent more likely to pursue a college education. There is also a strong link between CS and planning, problem-solving, and reading comprehension skills. With CS lessons and activities, students can score better on standardized tests.
Furthermore, the same students can also easily outperform STEM learners when it comes to planning and problem-solving. Most courses offered by kiddie bootcamps include teacher resources, unplugged and plugged activities, and lesson plans. Along with social sciences and natural sciences, CS is important for kids to learn.
Since these courses are still not widely offered in public schools, the best way to expose your kids is by enrolling them in coding bootcamps for kids. They will be taught how to create games, digital stories, and art. These courses also aim to promote computational thinking, persistence, collaboration, and problem-solving.
CS Topics Elementary School Children Can Learn
Like any school lesson, computer science topics should be age-appropriate. Many children already use computers at home before going to school, so learning can be surprisingly easy. With many different games and other fun educational models available, kids can learn new concepts without it feeling like a chore.
In the same vein, interactive CS websites like Alice.org and ComputerScienceForKids.com have successfully taught CS skills to students. They believe that elementary years are critical for building favorable attitudes toward STEM and computer science subjects. It can also help them build education requirements for career opportunities later on.
In a different study conducted by scholars Pamela R. Aschbacher, Erika Li, and Ellen J. Roth, it was revealed that graduate students, scientists, and high school students who were interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics were exposed to these subjects in elementary and middle school.
Top CS Resources for Young Children
If your young child wants to start learning computer science, there are many different options. Whether they want to learn programming skills or excel in advanced topics, you can find many opportunities for students. Below is a list of different resources that you can explore to introduce your young kids to computer science and its principles.
If I Ran The Zoo
This program is ideal for kids from kindergarten to second grade. They will be following an engineering design process using a Three Little Pigs house and crane schema. This is best if you want to teach your kids how to start, test, and modify what they build. In the end, they will be tasked to write a conclusion about their proposed solution.
Alice 2: Hour of Code
This is another resource to encourage programming language learning among kinder and elementary kids. They will be tasked to make storyboards and translate them into programmable scripts, after which they create a 3D animation. This is a good resource because it uses a story with recognizable characters to teach programming.
Alice 3: Building A Scene
This is a more advanced course intended for elementary students, specifically those in third grade or higher. This introduces the learner to the skills and concepts of the Alice virtual world. They complete exercises that involve scene editing, camera manipulation, and setting scene and vehicle properties.
Small Basic For Kids
This parent-led or self-study material is best for fourth-grade students. The book is made up of 30 lessons explaining how to run and start a basic computer program. Through this book, students can learn design and small essential language elements. It also includes a basic video game and a Hangman game to teach students to try building.
David Ahl’s Basic Computer Games
This book has inspired many kids to be programmers later on in life. If you want to find a book for all ages, this material will introduce your kids to familiar games, helping them realize why people fell in love with computers in the first place. This resource is both fun and educational.
Learning Computer Science in Middle School
Coding is best taught to middle school students because they can understand more complex topics that could help them land a good career later on. Here, the focus is shifted to building block-style and visual coding tools to help students learn how to use simple computer languages to build games, websites, and apps.
Some of the age-appropriate activities included here are simple scriptwriting activities and logic-based games that will lead to app creation. This guide will also discuss the necessary tools to help students sort different computer system languages.
Middle School Computer Science Curriculum
The curriculum will depend on the platform or bootcamp that sponsored the activity. Some programs and courses need a few weeks to a few months to complete, but what’s important is it allows students to be creative and engaged while problem-solving and staying productive.
Though different, most middle school CS curricula include foundational discussion on physical computing, data about society, analysis of algorithms, web development, and problem-solving. Each program teaches top topics to help students learn advanced programming and enter the technology industry later on.
Top CS Projects for Young Teens
We’ve broken down the top CS projects for teens to help you choose the right program for your kids. These activities range from gaming to simple website building, all of which are geared to help young teens better prepare for advanced study and higher education in computer science.
Interactive Stories, Animations, and Games
This is best for kids aged eight to 16 because it allows them to come up with innovative ideas and bring them to life. Here, coding basics are taught engagingly with story creation or character animation. Students become invested in their projects as they build creations using codes from scratch.
This is a project that allows young teens to pick topics that they’re interested in and use coding skills to showcase those special topics. Extremely competent kids can build a website from scratch or use an online tool that makes site setup easy but still allows for coding.
Fun Displays or Code Games
Learning Computer Science in High School
Students who get into computer science programs in high school gain a competitive advantage because they move rapidly to a more profound passion for cognitive computing. They can develop higher-order problem-solving and thinking skills. In the end, becoming disciplined thinkers will benefit them the most in the long run.
Aside from school programs, high school students who want to immerse themselves in computer science can take advantage of the online courses offered at coding bootcamps and on online platforms like Udemy, CodeHS, Alice.org, Codecademy, and more.
High School Computer Science Curriculum
As for older students, the basics are often taught further while also introducing more complex topics like virtual reality, AP computer science principles, basics of cyber security, mobile apps, and Nitro. This can prepare students for one of the best computer science careers.
High school education and CS exposure are both essential to a child’s future career in tech. It can be helpful for students to continue their CS exposure from kindergarten until high school and beyond to ensure that they have a competitive advantage.
Computer Science Summer Programs for High School Students
Summer programs are shorter compared to what is offered in schools, but they are more intensive. Summer camps and after-school virtual tech courses teach 3D modeling, Adobe, Unity, Java, Python, and more. These courses offer live online computer classes where students interact with their teachers and engage in group or individual projects.
While the duration of the program depends primarily on the coding bootcamp or summer camp running such activities, they usually last from one to five weeks or until summer is over. You can find a variety of courses to suit your teen’s needs so they can focus on other extracurriculars if they want.
These programs are relatively common since they are offered every summer or in after-school classes during the school year. These are fun and exciting ways to introduce your kids to be more productive both in their future careers and during the long summer months.
Computer Science Internships for High School Students
If your child wants to pursue a future career in computer science, cyber security, software development, there are several internship programs you can take advantage of. These will give teens and young adults a good start in their careers later on. Most of these internship programs are free and are primarily offered to empower underrepresented students.
Countless agencies are offering these internship opportunities. These include Anson L. Clark Scholars Program, AEOP High School Apprenticeship, Computer Science for Cyber Security (CS4CS), Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program, and Google Computer Science Summer Institute (CSSI).
The Bottom Line
If you want your kids to get a headstart in life and their tech career, enroll them in kid’s coding bootcamps. The activities in these bootcamps are age-appropriate and will guarantee your kids to have fun while they are learning. You can foster healthy learning and set them up for greatness by studying computer science before college.