Today kicks off the 11th annual 4-H National Youth Science Day–the start of a month-long celebration to challenge kids and educators excited about computer science (CS) through hands-on projects—and for the first time, Google.org is supporting the effort.
I’ve been involved in 4-H since I was nine. I joined because I wanted to show horses (just like my big sister), which I did as an Iowa 4-H member for 10 years. Now I use some of my time at Google to support 4-H students around the country. Alongside other Googlers, I was on the NYSD activity design team with National 4-H Council, West Virginia University and MIT Scratch to create a series of activities to help students learn about core concepts of CS while having fun. In a free online activity from CS First called Animate a Name, kids can choose any name they want and make the letters change colors, spin or even dance to a favorite tune.
Last week I caught up with Fiona Reyes, a 4-H teen leader from Santa Clara, CA and the star of the CS First Animate a Name videos. We chatted about NYSD, her involvement this year and more generally, what computer science means to her.
Curtis: Tell me a little bit about your participation in 4-H over the years.
Fiona: I’ve been a member of 4-H since I was five years old. While I can’t remember everything about the first projects that I did (baking and flower arranging), I do remember feeling very welcomed by the youth leaders of my 4-H club. I’ve done projects like poultry (chickens), sewing, cavies (guinea pigs), which have helped me learn important life skills like public speaking and organization. Last year was also the beginning of my involvement with computer science in 4-H. As a part of the California Computer Science Pathway Team, I lead a computer science project for youth in Santa Clara County.
Curtis: Can you explain what computer science is, in your own words? Why should kids learn computer science?
Fiona:CS is a part of so many things. Yes, computer scientists code, but what they’re doing is creating new programs or improving existing innovations to make daily life easier. This means CS is part of fashion, agriculture, art, music and more. It’s important that youth are taught this at an early age so that they’ll consider pursuing a career where they can incorporate technology and CS into their passions.
Curtis: You’re the first non-Googler to be featured in a CS First video—you’re basically a celebrity now. What did you think of that process?
Fiona:I was a little nervous about filming the video, but as soon as I got to the production room, everyone was welcoming and kind. That was my first experience being professionally filmed and using a teleprompter, but it was very fun. The final product turned out amazing. It’s weird to think kids all over the nation will be watching it as they do the Animate a Name activity!