There is a vague but persistent notion that public school systems are currently transitioning to the realities of our digital world. Older, humanities-based courses like literature, history and philosophy aren’t disappearing.
However, learning STEM skills improves students’ thinking fundamentally while preparing them for a job in our-tech based world. Shakespeare and Tolstoy aren’t going anywhere, but this is the golden age of STEM subjects. Isn’t it?
What exactly are kids learning? Let’s dive into the changes in Ontario’s curriculum set for 2022 to see how students in grades 1-8 will embrace the STEM skills and foundational cognitive abilities that have always been at the heart of RP4K.
STEM subjects have always emphasized soft skills like problem-solving and concrete skills, like learning coding skills in the classroom that they’ll need in later grades and while working. Ontario’s curriculum for students in grades 1-8 aims at improving computational thinking, coding, innovation, and scientific and engineering design.
The Ford government released a long document containing the full breakdown for each grade of student expectations and the different areas of study. The government claims students will learn how to code beginning in the first grade.
However, the “Specific Expectations” don’t outline what students will be coding or even what language they will learn.
Heading “A2.1” states that students will “write and execute code in investigations and when modelling concepts, with a focus on creating clear and precise instructions for simple algorithms. A2.2 states that students will “identify and describe impacts of coding and of emerging technologies on everyday life.”
The document’s emphasis on STEM skills is very broad, as it should be, given the needs of the enormous and diverse student body. Our online coding classes in Toronto give parents more control over the specific programming skills their children learn.
For example, if your child is new to coding, they can begin learning how to program a video game using the coding language Python. At RP4K, we put video games at the centre of our coding classes and only teach the coding languages popular among industry professionals.
The curriculum for Ontario schools emphasizes coding and emerging technologies. The Curriculum and Resource document articulates goals for three cohorts:
The RP4K summer course has important, fundamental differences from the ones we offer during the year. The summer itself is laid out and more open as schedules relax. RP4K uses this to delve deeper into subjects.
Instead of weekly one-hour sessions, the summer program is three hours every day, so students take a genuine deep dive into coding and learn more in less time than they otherwise could. They aren’t totally different from our ordinary program, however.
The RP4K summer course also caps class sizes at four students per teacher, so every student gets the support and instruction they need without having to compete with their classmates. When the school year resumes and your child is back in class, their classmates will come to them to answer coding questions.
One of the big changes to Ontario’s curriculum isn’t just what students will learn but that all students will learn it. By “de-streaming” the material, every child in Ontario gets the opportunity to learn STEM skills.
However, thankfully, the curriculum also emphasizes skilled trades. Modernizing education means ensuring children have the specific coding skills necessary to thrive professionally while considering that many students will apply the STEM skills they learn in various fields.
Some RP4K students have become professional video game coders, or they work in many other jobs requiring STEM skills — some even became RP4K teachers! The world is a big place, and young people need to do what’s right for them. Realistically, not everyone can or should become a professional coder.
From the skilled trades and beyond, a wider range of jobs than you may expect opens up when children know how to code. Perhaps they can be chemical, mechanical, or civil engineers. They might become web or software developers or computer systems analysts.
Society requires a multitude of professions. Learning STEM skills prepares children for jobs in more industries than you may initially expect.
Finally, learning can be extremely enjoyable in the right environment. Unlike the changes to the Ontario curriculum, RP4K stresses that lessons will always be fun!
We teach kids how to code video games so they’re motivated to learn and finish their assignments. Even kids as young as seven can learn to make a real game they can play with friends and family. Plus, we embed gamification concepts into the lessons themselves. The same dynamics that make video games so exciting and engaging to play help children stay motivated to learn.
Finally, RP4K makes it a point to hire young teachers for two reasons. Students should learn how to code video games from teachers who also grew up playing them — passion for gaming is contagious. Practically speaking, young teachers also have more recent experience doing coding in school and beyond.
Ontario is explicitly incorporating STEM skills into the curriculum in a broad and holistic way. Don’t expect politicians to specify which coding languages students in certain grades will learn. Rather, the point is to emphasize the skills needed to thrive in STEM subjects while teaching the broader lessons that prepare kids for a range of careers and life in general.
Sign up for RP4K’s online coding courses for kids this summer, and you’ll start the 2023 school session ahead of the curve, no matter how STEM skills get implemented in the curriculum.