Harkins, Merski: $70,000 in grants will bring computer science to the classroom

HARRISBURG, Jan. 17 –  The Erie County school curriculum is about to become broader and more tech-oriented thanks to $70,000 in grants that will introduce computer science into the classroom, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. 

The Erie City School District and the Erie Rise Leadership Academy Charter School will each receive a $35,000 grant to fund the training and equipment needed to ready teachers and students to embrace the new, tech-oriented classes.

“As a former educator, I’m really excited to hear about these grants,” Merski said. “Although many people automatically think of coding when they hear the phrase ‘computer science,’ it’s actually a subject that goes far beyond programming. With studies and exercises that teach kids how to think critically, it’s a discipline that introduces concepts of logic, problem solving and creativity – lessons for which kids of all ages are ready.”

Harkins agreed, noting, “The skills computer science teaches cut across so many different fields. CS teaches students how to attack problems in a computational way, by breaking them down into smaller parts, and it helps older students become comfortable working with large amounts of data. It also gives them a chance to create technology, not just use it. It readies them for the modern workforce.”

Merski noted that the grants are targeted at schools with little or no computer science in the curriculum. Schools participating in the Erie City School District grant include Jefferson Elementary School, Harding Elementary School, Lincoln Elementary School, Perry Elementary School, Wilson Middle School, Strong Vincent Middle School and East Middle School.

Each grant funds a combination of professional development and equipment. Recipients will have up to $10,500 for training educators on CS standards and how to incorporate them into the curriculum, and up to $24,500 for products and training to implement computer science education in the classroom.

The funding – provided through the PAsmart initiative – is part of a package of $8.7 million in targeted grants to expand computer science classes and teacher training at 765 schools across the commonwealth.