Sparking curiosity in coding at a crucial age
One of the unique features of the Amazon Future Engineer program is its long-term approach—focusing on students STEM-literacy from childhood to career. Long-term thinking is common at Amazon, and when it comes to students’ access to quality computer science education, it is critical to include elementary school students.
Amazon Future Engineer is committed to funding computer science education for nearly 200,000 elementary school students across the country, at more than 400 schools and counting. Amazon Future Engineer is working with BootUp, a nonprofit professional development provider specializing in elementary school education, to bring computer science to each school. Due to the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming school year, BootUp has modified its professional development work in a virtual setting without compromising the ability to model and discuss the same computer science concepts and practices.
"This academic year has been a trying time for teachers, students, and families, and we've been consistently impressed with elementary school teachers who are going above and beyond to keep their young students engaged, nurtured, and smiling," said Jeff Wilke, Amazon's CEO of Worldwide Consumer. "In our increasingly virtual world, we are confident that a focus on younger students in need, will be an important and timely asset for teachers as they prepare all of their students for a bright future."
By providing equitable access—beginning in elementary grades—school districts can purposely create a pathway for continued student engagement in computer science at the middle and high school level.
"This opportunity will close gaps by enabling professional computer science learning for students in under-served communities throughout the nation," said Clark Merkley, BootUp's Executive Director. "It’s truly one of the first national sponsorships focused on implementing sustainable, district-wide technology initiatives. We're extremely proud to be a part of something that will have a measurable, positive impact for decades to come."
Providing computer science instruction during the school day to every student district-wide ensures that all students, especially girls and underrepresented students of color, can participate.
Research published in Science Magazine found that girls as young as six pick up on cultural stereotypes and start believing that specific activities are "not for them" (Bian, 2017). By providing equitable access—beginning in elementary grades—school districts can increase engagement of underrepresented students and purposely create a pipeline for student enrollment in computer science at the middle and high school level.
In addition, providing computer science instruction in elementary school before it becomes an elective, gives students increased opportunities to take STEM classes throughout their K-12 career, in college, and eventually in their chosen profession.
Amazon is excited to welcome the below school districts into the Amazon Future Engineer program, with many more to be added in the coming months:
- Aldine Independent School District - Houston, TX
- Chicago Public Schools - Chicago, IL
- Dallas Independent School District - Dallas, TX
- Elementary School District 159 - Matteson, IL
- NYC District 1 - New York, NY
- NYC District 26 - Bayside, NY
- Prince George's County Public Schools - Upper Marlboro, MD
- Shelby County Schools - Memphis, TN
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon Future Engineer has extended the deadline for school districts to apply for elementary school computer science education sponsorships through BootUp. BootUp is well-prepared with virtual opportunities to account for the uncertainty of the current educational landscape. US school districts can apply here. In addition, right now, Amazon Future Engineer is supporting students of all ages amid the COVID-19 pandemic with free, online curriculum.