Richards High School math teacher Debbie Swanson helps freshmen-to-be troubleshoot the computer code theyâve written on graphing calculators during Early Start, a three-week bridge program for new students. | Supplied photo
Updated: September 2, 2014 6:25AM
A bridge program for incoming freshmen at Richards High School in Oak Lawn has students writing and editing computer code and learning about the workings of smartphones, computers and gaming consoles, according to a release from Community High School District 218.
For a recent class, teacher Debbie Swanson led the students inside such electronics, and they were rapt, the release said.
As the students wrote and edited computer code, Swanson’s voice and an occasional “I see” were the only sounds heard, it said.
All 25 students successfully wrote code for a game that required a player to guess a random integer between 1 and 50 using a graphing calculator. It was one of many interesting and unconventional experiences during Early Start, a three-week introduction to Richards that focused on English and science, technology, engineering and math activities, the district said.
“Students learned the differences between linear and exponential relationships and how to use graphing calculators to find a model for an exponential decay situation,” Swanson said in the release. “Later, they used tablets to play different game apps to collect data and how to compute median and mean values.”
Science, math, computer programming and English lessons were designed to work in concert, with students discovering that what they learned in one area would be reinforced in another, the district said.
“For example, when we did programming (in the math component) on the calculators we created a loop. Then they went to their computer programming class and learned how a loop works,” Swanson said in the release. “There was also an activity in science in which students worked with exponential decay amongst a population, and in math we talked about how to distinguish an exponential decay model by looking at a table or a graph or a particular situation.”
Early Start also featured meetings with guidance counselors and a general introduction to life at the school. Nearly half of the freshman class volunteered to attend, the district said.
“This program has a variety of benefits, from alleviating anxiety about coming to high school to helping prepare them for the pace and cognitive demands of high school-level classes,” Swanson said in the release. “They seemed to enjoy the opportunity to learn the building, the staff and peers.”
Nationally, more students fail ninth grade than any other year, according to the district. Bridge programs such as Early Start help freshmen adapt to the academic and social changes that accompany the start of high school, it said.
“It’s nice to have a positive relationship already with them prior to the school year. I really believe that this will help the freshmen with their transition to high school,” Swanson said in the release.