GOLDEN, Colo. — The Colorado School of Mines and the Colorado Department of Education teamed up to offer free computer science workshops for the state’s kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers. The goal is to train at least one teacher at every elementary school in the state.

“[The program is] for teachers to have a better understanding of the math and science standards that we have within Colorado as well as the computer science standards that are suggested across the nation,” said Colorado School of Mines Computer Science department head Dr. Tracy Camp.

The one-day workshops will teach the curriculum called Computer Science Fundamental Approach to Standards Training or (CS-FAST). The hands-on seminars will give about 1,500 teachers training this year to teach basic computer science concepts in their classrooms through a curriculum developed specifically for Colorado elementary school teachers.

Byron Reed

“Computer science as many people know has been just exploding in the job market,” Camp said. “There’s many unfilled technical jobs that exist in our country and so we need more students who are prepared to step into those roles.”

The state will provide funding to the Colorado School of Mines Computer Science department for the workshops. School districts can begin recruiting teachers for this professional development opportunity and apply for training slots including funds to provide stipends to participating teachers who complete the training.

“In many fields now, computers have become so integral to what you do,” said second-year Master’s student Sarah Person. “So even if you don’t go into computer science, knowing how computers work and knowing how to operate them will become integral.”

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Person is working with a team to develop the curriculum that will be teaching the educators and helping train those helping the schools through “unplugged” activities like physically navigating through a maze of plastic cups using coding.

Byron Reed

“So you have a problem [and] I need to navigate this maze in a set way and how do you do that and how do you break this down into steps and finally developing an algorithm to accomplish that task,” said Person.

The school said teachers will be introduced to the Computer Science Teaching Association standard for each grade level, some experience in coding and learning about Computational Thinking.

“Computational thinking is a way to solve problems whether you have a computer or not,” Camp said. “Connecting some computer science fun un-plugged activities and how those map to the standards that exist in hopes that then the teachers will take these activities into their classrooms and engage our children and teach them a little bit more about computer science.”

The workshops begin this year in March and will run through June at various locations around the state. 

For more information on how to apply, visit the Mines Computer Science Department web page. 

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