Jumpstart Python Empowers AP Computer Science

Brea Colagross has been teaching math, business, and computer science for 15 years. She currently teaches AP Computer Science Principles at Russellville High School in Alabama and is a Google Certified Educator, as well as a member of the Association for Career and Technical Education and Computer Science Teachers of Alabama.


After teaching AP CSP for four years, she noticed that students’ prior knowledge in programming was progressing, and “our students needed more.” Because she came from a math and business background and had no Python programming experience, she signed up for summer professional development through A+ College Ready in 2019, and it was there that she learned about Jumpstart Python with CodeSpace from Firia Labs. 


“We have a progression of four CS classes. They now do Computer Science Discoveries in middle school, then they do Exploring CS before AP CSP, so they have really enjoyed learning Python. By the time they get to me, they’re bored of block-based languages. Some of them do like the visual part of App Lab, but having something physical to hold is so engaging. They loved the physical part. It makes noise! We can transmit from one to the other!” 


Colagross structured her course by using Jumpstart Python for the first semester and completing the Create task by December. “The first year, I basically just went through the code.org curriculum. This year, I was able to use [Jumpstart Python in CodeSpace] for the programming unit.” The project-based tasks and open-ended remix tasks in the CodeSpace curriculum have better prepared her students for the Create task. “This year, their Create tasks are better. They were able to work independently without me intervening.” For the second semester, she is using some other favorite resources for Data and the Internet standards. “I enjoy pulling together quality resources from several sites. The students get bored when everything is on screen. The physical part of the micro:bit is so engaging!”


Colagross knows that Python is an industry-ready language, which is important to her district. “Python and physical computing is employable. It’s not just the language; it’s the thought processes, the critical thinking. We have a lot of kids going into computer science degrees.” Colagrass is confident that CodeSpace is the tool to prepare them.