Before they collect their diplomas next month, students in the Career & Technology Education program at Robert D. Stethem Educational Center received certificates and kudos for completing one of five programs that will give them a leg up as they move on to college and careers.

“America’s economy and position as the leader in the world is linked to a skilled workforce,” said Lynne Arnold, principal at Stethem.

Traci Chappelear, coordinator of Career and Technology Education, said that by choosing to enroll in CTE, students take control of their futures. “You are driven to do something different,” she said. “And it is my hope that drive will propel you in all your endeavors.”

Stethem offers five programs — automotive technician, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), horticultural services, interactive media production and pharmacy technician.

Oumain Ballinger, who will graduate from Thomas Stone High School on June 4, learned about Stethem and its program during a field trip. “I didn’t know what I was going to do,” he said. “I didn’t think there were a lot of options for me. I like working on cars … but I saw HVAC and I wanted to do that. I like hands-on work.” Ballinger is National Center for Construction Education and Research core and HVAC Level 1 certified.

Taking the stage to award their students certificates, program instructors told the audience of family, friends and faculty just how “real world” the instruction Stethem students receive can be.

“Take a good look at these guys,” said John Young, the HVAC instructor. “They’ll be the ones taking care of your heating and air conditioning.”

“Horticultural is a big word with a lot of things going on,” said Kyle Olsen, instructor of the horticultural program. “But it all boils down to — Everybody’s got to eat, right?”

Closing remarks were given by Kenneth Stethem, older brother of the late Robert Stethem, a 1980 graduate of Thomas Stone High School. The center is named for Robert Stethem, a U.S. Navy Seabee diver killed in 1985 by terrorists during an airplane hijacking. Stethem, who now lives in Virginia, said it was nice coming to a place where he hears his family mentioned so much,  joking that it’s even better because it’s pronounced correctly.

“I want you to reflect on something … not in the good times but in the bad times, during the struggle,” Stethem said. “Your parents, your teachers, they’ll tell you nobody goes through life without struggle.” He urged the students to remain passionate about what they do in life and that passion isn’t so much about loving something as it is suffering for it.

“You like this enough to suffer through it,” Stethem said. “It doesn’t mean you quit when it gets tough. As you go forward in your adventures, find those principles you want to live by and live by them.”

Jasmond Gray, who took interactive media production classes, said the center, “helped me discover my passion.” Gray will attend Bowie State University after graduating from Maurice J. McDonough High School on June 3. At Stethem, “you get to learn new things that you wouldn’t necessarily learn at another school,” she said.

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

 

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

Kayla Kemp apologizes for the state of her iPad screen, the plastic splintering from being dropped. When she wakes it up, the screen shows a plain, concrete wall. “I’m in the closet,” Kemp, a Westlake High School senior, said. “They come and get me when it’s time for class.”

It’s quiet, but then after a minute or two, “I can hear people,” she said, the screen on the iPad lightening as the closet door swings up and her statistics teacher Craig Heath greets her, “Hi, Kayla. Do you want to take yourself or do you want me to carry you?”

Free of the hallway closet confines, Kemp chooses to maneuver herself to the classroom. Settled on the couch in her Waldorf living room with a stack of textbooks beside her, Kemp is waiting for Advanced Placement statistics to start. Cahill, the robot she controls via an app on her personal iPad, allows her to roll down the school’s hallway. Students dodge out of her way, ignore her or say “Hi, Kayla” as she motors by, the base of the robot resembling a miniature Segway.

Other students, still giddy by the idea of a peer attending class via telepresence, follow her to Heath’s room and take photos of the robot — an iPad, with Kemp’s face on the screen, perched on an adjustable pole. “They’re not even in this class,” Kemp said, watching the laughing photographers turn and leave.

Kemp is piloting the robot program after a broken ankle landed her at home during the back end of her senior year; as a walker, she had no easy way to get to school everyday. While arranging her schedule, a home and hospital instructor could be found for her other subjects, but locating a statistics tutor proved tricky.

“When students are unable to attend school, they often become disconnected with what is going on in their classes, even if they are given assignments to complete at home,” said Superintendent of Schools Kimberly Hill. “In Charles County Public Schools we believe in the importance of relationships.”

About a month ago, Hill was shown a virtual demonstration of a Double Robotics telepresence robot. The devices launched in 2012 and were originally designed to allow telecommuters and remote workers to have a physical presence in the office, said Sara Broyles, communications lead for Double Robotics. “But it’s use case has since expanded to education and healthcare,” she said. The California-based company has sold more than 6,000 Doubles worldwide with about 2,000 being used in schools, Broyles said.

Seeing the positive implications it could have for students — especially those under home and hospital instruction — Hill said she would like Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) to test a program. In 2015, a Poolesville elementary school used a similar robot to allow a fifth grader to attend class while undergoing treatment for cancer. Pete Cevenini, chief of instructional technology for CCPS, foresees the school system using the devices in a similar way.

So far, so good if Kemp’s case proves standard. “I think it’s going to be more and more common to hear about,” Cevenini said. He added that although Kemp only attends one class using Cahill, other students could potentially use it to attend school all day while enrolled in home and hospital instruction. All a student will need is a way to connect to the app through a phone, tablet or computer from their home or a hospital. Cevenini said after the robot arrived it took about two hours to get up and rolling. Getting other students used to it took a bit longer.

“It took a couple of days for students to adjust to having the robot here,” Heath said. “But after that, it’s been pretty smooth.”

“At first, it blew my mind,” said senior Jalin Thomas. “But you get used to it.” Ben Booker, a classmate of Kemp’s agreed. “It was kind of surprising,” he said. “We weren’t expecting it.”

Now classmates have no problem telling Kemp to fix her screen when they only see the top of her head. “You look like a potato,” her friend Efeohe Suleman joked. Later, when Kemp is moving the robot around the table her friends have taken over among a smattering of books, papers and a lone baseball glove, Suleman admits that not everyone has the opportunity to share a textbook with a robot. “I think it’s funny,” she said, watching Kemp complete a three-point turn after getting stuck in a corner. “It’s cool as well.”

“Technology will never replace great teaching,” Hill said. “But in this case, in certainly enhances our ability to meet the needs of our students.”

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

 

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

Student delegates from Charles County Public middle and high schools selected Charles County Association of Student Councils (CCASC) officers to lead the group next school year. Officers serve one-year terms and are voted on by their peers to represent the middle and high school student communities.

The following students will lead the CCASC for the 2016-17 school year.

  • Joseph Perriello, rising senior, North Point High School, CCASC president;
  • Kyle Smith, rising junior, North Point, CCASC vice president;
  • Taaron Branch, rising freshman, North Point, CCASC second vice president;
  • Nadjia Haskins, rising sophomore, Westlake High School, CCASC secretary;
  • Rida Dhanani, rising sophomore, North Point, CCASC charity coordinator; and
  • Morgan Jones, rising eighth grader, Milton M. Somers Middle School, CCASC middle school representative.

Student delegates in the CCASC meet several times a year to discuss issues and concerns, school system policies and programs and other topics of interest and concern to students. CCASC students also annually vote to support one local community organization or charity group to support throughout the school year. The group is overseen by a regional advisor, Gary Winsett who is a social studies teacher at Thomas Stone High School.

Schools develop their own methods for selecting CCASC student delegates. Each high school sends 15 delegates to monthly meetings; middle schools send up to 10 delegates. The CCASC is an organization consisting of student leaders from the county’s seven high schools and eight middle schools.

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

At Westlake High School in Waldorf, celebrating the success of all students is a top priority. From student-centered and colorful displays in the hallways to special clubs and events scheduled during Wolverine Time, the school’s one-hour lunch, the talents and accomplishments of students are fostered and supported by a positive school climate.

The Westlake Class of 2016 got to celebrate their accomplishments even further by taking part in the Wolverine Signing Day held May 18 at the school. More than 70 Westlake seniors took part in Signing Day, which celebrated the post-secondary plans of participating students. These students came together to celebrate their future and to support one another as they prepare to graduate.

“This is the school’s first year doing this and it was a great idea. The recognition and this event makes us all feel special in a way,” said Iyanna Edmondson, a Westlake senior planning to study business management in the fall at North Carolina A&T State University. “This was fun, but I do look forward to being done with high school,” she added.

Students were called to the auditorium stage one by one and signed a commitment sheet to recognize their future plans. Each was cheered on by their peers, as well as senior class vice principal Patricia Cuffee-Neville and class counselor Virgil Barrow. After they signed their commitment sheet, each student greeted Principal Chrystal Benson on stage and had their photo taken to commemorate the occasion.

Benson told her senior class that not only did the commitment sheet honor their future plans, but it was a reminder of her expectation that each senior remembers the lifelong commitment to themselves they learned at Westlake, and the five P’s – prompt, polite, positive, prepared and productive.

“Today is about celebrating you. It is a celebration – please cheer on your classmates and support their post-secondary commitments,” Benson said. Some parents attended the event to cheer on their kids and their peers. Westlake underclassmen and teachers also came to show their support for the Class of 2016.

Senior Deja Baker signed her commitment sheet to celebrate her acceptance at North Carolina A&T State University. She plans to study biomedical engineering and said she has known for several years that the school in North Carolina would be her top choice. “I first took a tour in 2013 and fell in love with the campus. Plus, they have my major there and some of my classmates from here are going there, too,” Baker said.

A total of 73 seniors took part in Wolverine Signing Day. Other Charles County high schools held similar events this week to honor the post-secondary commitments of their graduating seniors. More than 2,130 seniors will graduate in seven high school ceremonies scheduled for June 2-4 at the Convocation Center at North Point High School. Visit http://www.ccboe.com/community/graduation/index.php for more information about high school graduations.

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

The Board of Education of Charles County is holding a public work session at 5 p.m., Monday, May 23 in the boardroom at the Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building. The meeting will be televised live on the Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) website at ccboe.com and broadcast on Comcast Channel 96/Verizon FiOS Channel 12.

The following is a meeting agenda and is subject to change.

Call to order – 5 p.m.

Pledge of Allegiance

Public Forum

Work Session

  • FY 2017 operating budget
  • Policy 6000 revisions

Adjournment

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

 

As a kid, Kevonate Washington was interested in martial arts. He took some classes when he was around 4 and fell in love. “I was hooked on it,” said the North Point High School senior. “I was practicing all the time.” He would go outside to test out what he learned. “I would train … fighting trees and rocks.” Over time, Washington started teaching himself moves, watching website tutorials by professional martial artists. He’s a third-degree black belt in muay thai. As a freshman, Washington figured there had to be other guys like him, so he started the self defense club. That was four years ago; it continues to meet on Fridays during the school’s one-hour lunch period.

For a while, the club met for half-an-hour and physical education teacher Christel Andy, who admittedly knows very little about martial arts, was the sole sponsor. The group would watch videos, maybe try a few moves, teach each other what they knew. Nothing too “Enter the Dragon,” but enough to keep interest in the club going.

Now on the eve of graduation, Washington has found the club he started transforming and growing. Freshman Jeff Seaton joined this year and convinced Andy and art teacher Kevin Laskow, a new sponsor, to extend the offering to the full hour. The guys — the club is currently made up of all males, but they would like girls to join (“More diversity is a great thing for any sport,” Washington said) — bring their lunches to the gym or whatever free classroom they can find and eat when time allows. Laskow, a first-year teacher at North Point, was made to lead the club. He has been practicing martial arts since he was in high school and was tired to getting picked on. His dad told him he could let the bullying continue or he could take steps to make it stop. Once word got around that Laskow was training, no one bothered him anymore and he never had to use it in a fight.

North Point’s club is limited to what its members can glean from each other, tutorials and Laskow. It doesn’t have pads, so contact is limited. “We go over basic techniques and drills until they start getting it,” Laskow said. “We take a practical approach to it.”

Senior Will Bolton is new to North Point this year, but not to martial arts. While living in Germany — his parents are career U.S. Air Force —  Bolton studied gōjū-ryū and other forms of self defense. His training led to him teaching children and adults. Bolton also taught a women’s self defense class, an exercise that meant getting beat up frequently when, as the only male available, he was cast as a potential aggressor in the lessons. When he arrived at North Point, he met Washington and their mutual love of martial arts was discovered. Bolton joined the club and along with Washington and Laskow found himself training younger or novice members. Learning self defense “never hurts,” Bolton said. “We’re not teaching you how to fight. We are not promoting violence at all,” he added. “We are teaching self defense.”

Seaton wants to continue the club once Washington and Bolton graduate in June. “Martial arts was a big part of my life when I was younger,” he said, adding that he likes that the practice teaches self control. “We’re learning to fight without hurting someone,” said Seaton who has a purple belt in taekwondo. “It’s good to know something that will be useful in the real world.”

Laskow takes the first 30 minutes of class to go through drills and techniques, and when he leaves for the second half after giving homework — 20 roundhouse kicks, stretching (“I always know who has been doing their homework,” he said. “I can look at each guy and tell who’s getting better.”) — the members go over what they have learned. Before he leaves, he wants to show them one last move. “Kevonate, demonstrate it for us,” Laskow said. “Kevonate is always the demo guy,” freshman Jahleel Harston said, laughing.

Laskow said he and Seaton will ensure the club continues, and fundraising suggestions have been volleyed to gather money for the purchase of pads and other equipment. For students whose paths may never have crossed, the club offers a chance to build friendships around a common interest. “It’s cool to see the teamwork,” Laskow said. “They are collaborating and teaching each other, building self esteem and self confidence.”

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

 

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

 

North Point High School’s Da’Juon Washington is ready to tackle the role of Student Member to the Board of Education next school year. Chosen by his peers to represent their interests on the Board, Washington said he looks forward to talking about plans for students with Board members. “I want to help make a change. I would love to see plans I proposed during my campaign, and new plans, approved,” he added.

Washington is finishing up his junior year at North Point and first year as the school’s student liaison to the Board. One of two candidates for the student member position for school year 2016-17, Washington was elected to the role earlier this year at the Charles County Association of Student Councils (CCASC) April meeting.

Each year, the top three students in the running for the position give a speech at the spring CCASC meeting and participate in a question and answer session with student delegates. Student delegates from all middle and high schools vote to elect the Student Member to the Board, as well as for the officers to represent the CCASC the following school year.

In his speech to his CCASC peers, Washington talked about launching a program for students to help them find resources on handling stress. “Students need programs to help them deal with stress and issues with time management. Some students do not realize that others have similar issues. I would love to develop discussion groups as part of the program so students can understand they are not the only ones dealing with stress,” he said.

A total of 210 votes were cast during the elections in which Washington was named the new Student Member to the Board. During last week’s Board of Education meeting, he shadowed Westlake junior Pearson Benson, the current student member to the Board, and will be sworn in to his new position at the Board’s June 14 meeting. Washington said he looks forward to the swearing in process and the opportunity to learn from and work with Board members.

Washington is enrolled in the Teacher Academy of Maryland (TAM) program and several Advanced Placement (AP) classes. He is an honor roll student and plans to either study neurology or become a professor after he graduates. “I would also like to become a school superintendent or school board member someday,” he added.

As the Student Board Member, Washington will work with a student liaison committee throughout the school year. Each high school is required to have a student liaison, which is selected by methods approved by the school’s student government association (SGA) and principal. Liaisons will be announced next month.

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

J.P. Ryon Elementary School fifth graders took in some college courses Friday during a visit to the La Plata campus of the College of Southern Maryland.

Destination College, a program that introduces elementary school-aged children to the university experience, has been held since 2011 in La Plata. Campuses in Prince Frederick and Leonardtown also hold the program. “It’s a positive opportunity for [students] to get thinking about post-secondary training,” said Julie Andrews-Walker, the administrative assistant for the school’s business and technology division, who used to coordinate Destination College.

While organizers stress an importance on science, technology, engineering and mathematics — STEM — majors, Destination College also features a stint in the theater and a class on learning sign language. Learn to Sign is led by Heather Zeolla, while Curtain, Lights, Theater! is overseen by Keith Hight, with activities and backstage tours led by theater majors Alex LeClair, Joshua Pierre and Michael Russell. Past field trips included tours of CSM’s television studio and trips to history and engineering classes, Andrews-Walker said. This year, James Graves’ Dare to Repair found students taking a computer apart — then putting it back together.

Ryon teacher Michael Curry said he and his class have been talking about college all year. Field trips like Destination College expand students’ minds. “A lot of my boys want to be basketball players, football players. And I tell them, ‘You can have your dream, but you need to have a backup plan,’” Curry said.

When asked how many of them are planning on going to college, almost all of Ryon’s visiting students raised their hands, said teacher Jennifer Davis, who has brought her class to CSM for the past four years. “It piques their interest and shows them different classes and instills in them a drive,” Davis said.

The importance of getting a degree or further training after graduating from high school is not lost on the fifth graders. “You get a degree and a good job when you get out out school,” said Gavin Dobbins, one of Curry’s students.

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

 

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

Charles County Public Schools is seeking feedback about the school system and its 36 schools from the parent community. A confidential survey was launched today to gather parental input about schools. The survey is available on the school system website, www.ccboe.com, under the What’s New section of the main homepage. The survey can also be accessed directly at https://vovici.com/wsb.dll/s/b14ag5944a.

Parents with more than one child enrolled in a Charles County public school can complete the survey for each school their child attends. Responses are confidential and will help the school system learn what parents think about the success of their child’s school and what can be improved. The survey is available for input until Friday, June 3.

Items included on the survey include student learning, school climate, safe and orderly environment, parental involvement and extracurricular activities. Questions about the survey can be directed to the Charles County Public Schools department of research and assessment at surveyquestions@ccboe.com or 301-934-7313.

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

Computer science students don’t think of ways to “fix” problems, they find ways to “debug” them.

Students in elementary, middle and high school spent the morning of May 12 at North Point High School showing visitors from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Education what they’re learning in computer science classes.

“It was an awesome morning,” said Jim Kurose, assistant director of the NSF for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. “These are the kind of days we live for in our jobs.”

NSF programs influence every grade level, with Charles County Public Schools striving to broaden participation in computer science. From Dr. James Craik Elementary School students’ demonstration of Bee Bots, a bumblebee-shaped robot programmed to follow a certain path, to St. Charles and North Point high school students leading a panel discussion about coding self-designed computer games and other projects, students explained to visitors how and why they are doing what they do. “It’s so clear how fully integrated computational thinking is through the curriculum,” Kurose said. “When we say ‘CS 4 All,’ for all is really the important part.”

Computer science classes “give students a real idea of how much work goes into the video games they play,” said Sarah Williams, who teaches Gateways to Technology classes at Milton S. Somers Middle School. “They can do this. It teaches them to believe in themselves.” Williams, who has done a lot of coding herself, said some programs in the past weren’t as user friendly as the ones her students work with. “It could be frustrating and a lot of people are turned off,” she said. But the programs her students use provide the “scaffolding” and support that prompt them to continue and advance, Williams said.

“I’ve always thought computers were fascinating,” said Kyree Burrell, a seventh grader at Somers. Computer science classes take him beyond being a player to a creator role. “With the different aspects, you get to use your creativity,” Paige Taylor, a Somers eighth grader, added.

Ramón Barthelemy, who works on national STEM education issues for the U.S. Department of Education, literally got on the students’ level when he sat on the floor between Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School fourth-grade students Kira Hubler and Patrick Hernandez. The pair worked out a code using bean bags and a duct-tape grid on the floor. “You get to experiment and learn things,” Hernandez said about computers. “You get to debug problems.”

“This is absolutely amazing,” Barthelemy said. “This is fantastic. Students are learning problem solving, not only computer science.”

Terence Stone, a computer science teacher at St. Charles said the subject he teaches has already exploded — there is hardly a corner of everyday life not affected by computers. “We’re all connected to our devices, everything has a microchip in it,” he said. “If we’re all using these things, we should know how they work. It’s an awesome opportunity for students to be on the forefront of changing technology.”

Headquartered in Arlington, Va., the National Science Foundation was created by the U.S. Congress in 1950 as an independent federal agency “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense,” according to the NSF website.

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.