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R. Roger Rowe adds computer science to enrichment wheel

RANCHO SANTA FE — At R. Roger Rowe, grades one through five are having a stronger emphasis on computer science for the 2018-2019 school year. According to Kim Pinkerton, Rancho Santa Fe School District interim superintendent and K-5 principal, computer science is new to the rotation wheel of enrichment offerings.

Pinkerton noted that the addition was made after careful reviewing and planning.

“Computer science is a blend of all STEM categories involving science, technology, engineering and math,” she said. “Studying these disciplines gives students computational thinking, critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are used in nontechnology areas as well.”

Pinkerton said the new addition to the rotation wheel will further enhance the R. Roger Rowe experience for students in these grade levels.

“As the needs for data science, artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning grow, we want to provide our elementary students with a vertically aligned computer science curriculum that allows us to set mastery standards by grade level and gives our students the opportunity to be on a learning continuum,” Pinkerton said. “This instructional experience will give our students background knowledge in a growing field to help prepare them as they move on to high school, college and ultimately their careers.”

The Enrichment Wheel for grades one through five consists of art, music, and now, computer science. For a total of 37 weeks, students participate in the enrichment program once a week.

Even though the school’s award-winning Robotics Program is for middle school students, offering elementary students computer science may pave the way for robotic interest in the future.

“We are very proud of our Robotics Program, which includes both First Tech Challenge middle school teams and First Lego League elementary teams. Last year, Rowe’s FTC Robotics team, Singularity, was one of a very few middle school teams to earn a spot at the FTC World Championships in Houston, Texas,” she said. “Another Rowe FTC team, Intergalactic Dragons, won a gold medal at the inaugural California State Games.”

Pinkerton said that with the addition of computer science at the elementary level, the rotation wheel is preparing kids for middle school course options like the robotics program.

Pinkerton said she is grateful for the annual contributions and support from the Rancho Santa Fe Education Foundation, which allows the school the flexibility to consider the best curricular options for its students.

Championing and overseeing the computer science program is Caitlin Rhodes. Pinkerton also pointed out that Rhodes teaches advanced math.

“She (Caitlin) is passionate about STEM curriculum and received training through Code.Org and Apple to design a program that builds on itself each year and is specific to each grade level,” she said. “She also receives curricular support from Code.Org and Apple as well.”

Pinkerton said adding computer science to its rotation wheel of enrichment helps students in approaching complex problems, breaking down the challenges into small pieces and logically resolving them — critical skills in all industries.

“We are passionate about our students’ experience, and we believe a computer science course is essential for the training of our students to be prepared for the ever-changing world of technology, science, engineering and math,” she said. “All students deserve the opportunity to strive in an area that excites him or her and we are thrilled to be able to add a course offering to the elementary school in this field in addition to our excellent arts and athletics programs.”