Wolcott Awarded Prestigious National Science Foundation Grant

Wolcott School captured a prestigious grant that will benefit students eager to learn more about computer science, and in doing so, took another step toward raising the innovative school’s national profile.

The National Science Foundation awarded the $600,000 grant to fund a two-year study to broaden opportunities for teens with learning differences to take AP Computer Science Principles.

“It’s a win/win for everyone,” said Wolcott parent, Jeanne Century, an educational researcher at the University of Chicago. “It’s about providing and expanding opportunities for kids who otherwise might not get them.”

When they submitted the proposal, Century and Miriam Pike, Wolcott’s head of school, knew of the great interest in bringing diversity to the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and math. But they did not know if the National Science Foundation would expand the definition widely enough to include those who learn in non-traditional ways.

“They loved it,” Century said. “We called our kids the hidden unrepresented group and they embraced the idea.”

The grant will generate proposed changes to the AP computer science course to make it more accessible for kids who learn differently. “What makes this even better is that we are engaging Wolcott students to be our collaborators. They will be providing feedback, telling us what works and what doesn’t,” said Century, whose son, Kenan, is a junior.

Technology not only spurs innovation but has a strong employment outlook. The US is on pace to fill only 29 percent of the expected 1.4 million computer science jobs expected to open by 2018, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology. “To leave those with different learning styles out of such a promising field would a real loss,” Pike said.

“Computer science is hugely important in terms of the job market,” she explained. “But whether or not students pursue careers, the skills that they learn — and the contributions they make– will be relevant to all. This grant is evidence that the work we do at Wolcott has an impact that extends far beyond our student population.”