By Anne Collier
Talk about authentic learning! A first-grader not only gets to learn how to develop a cellphone app, she creates her own game, presents it a showcase event at a nearby university and then – when it’s insinuated that maybe her older brother helped her – she reconfigures her code on the spot, demonstrating she’s a master of the Bootstrap programming language. The 7-year-old in question (literally) is Zora Ball, who showcased her game at Bootstrap Expo at the University of Pennsylvania. Her big brother Trace is a past STEM Scholar of the Year, their science teachers, Tariq Al-Nasir, told the Philadelphia Tribune. Zora attends the STEMnasium Learning Academy that Al-Nasir started – a program held at their school – the Harambee Institute of Science and Technology, a K-8 charter school – on Saturdays 48 weeks during the school year and 8 weeks in the summer.
As for Boostrap, it’s not just a programming language. It’s also “a standards-based curriculum for middle and high-school students [and I guess elementary school too] which teaches them to program their own videogames using purely algebraic and geometric concepts,” according to FATE, the Foundation for the Advancement of Technology in Education, which partnered with Bootstrap to bring the curriculum to the Philadelphia area. “While many programming languages use terms like functions and variables, they actually refer to concepts that are totally incompatible with algebra,” FATE continues. Thus a curriculum designed to fold real-world technology into school math and students into work that’s meaningful to them.