Concord teacher hopes to inspire kids to explore computer science as part of Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical

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Christa McAuliffe School teacher Heather Droulet was awarded the 2017 Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. As a part of the sabbatical, Droulet will get a year off with pay and extra money for materials to bring an idea to life. For her, its getting more girls interested in computer science:

Drolet’s great idea is “NH Kids Code,” a project aimed at inspiring elementary school students to explore computer science while honing “the 4 C’s:” critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration. She will bring the project on the road, for a week at a time, to fifth-grade classrooms at 25 elementary schools around the state. Kids will develop their own mobile app that corresponds with something else they are also studying – an app about the water cycle could be integrated into science curriculum, for instance, or an app that created history timelines could be integrated into social studies lessons.

Drolet is on a particular mission to engage more girls in computer science along with their male counterparts. She has established a “Confident Coders” curriculum which she will share, free, with teachers who want to use it in their schools.

“I want to get kids excited about coding in a relevant, real-world application and get girls excited about coding and spread excitement and confidence,” she said. She will also be conducting small-group trainings for educators on incorporating computer science into their current curricula.

“The projects that teachers take on through the McAuliffe Sabbatical truly enrich the lives of New Hampshire kids,” said Katie Merrow, vice president of community impact at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. “Getting kids engaged and excited about computer science from a young age will open so many possibilities in their schooling and in their lives and careers right here in New Hampshire.”

Drolet, who has taught at the Christa McAuliffe School since it opened in 2012, runs “Christa’s Coders,” a computer programming club, where she challenges students to create apps that “make a difference in the world,” like encouraging volunteerism or helping kids learn to read. She works to integrate technology across the school’s curriculum and led efforts that resulted in the school’s program being recognized as an Apple Distinguished Program and certification as a Project Lead the Way LAUNCH school. She holds a Master’s of Education in Instructional Technology from New England College in Henniker.

“This is an incredible honor,” said Drolet, of being chosen for the sabbatical. Teaching at a school named for McAuliffe, she is keenly aware of the Concord teacher’s life and work and legacy. “It is so powerful to be given this opportunity,” she said. “I just want people to know how intensely grateful I am.

“When I walk through the doors of the Christa McAuliffe School in Concord, NH each morning, I can’t help but be reminded of our namesake’s legacy,” Drolet wrote in her sabbatical application. “Her joy of learning, her courage, her commitment to innovation and thinking big. To teach in the same city where Christa taught, and to experience the culture of its progressive and supportive educational community, is an honor I wish every teacher could experience.”

Congratulations, Heather!

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