Innovation
STEM and Technology

Computer Science and Engineering

At St. Margaret’s, we believe exposing children as young as 3 to technology in the classroom begins a lifelong relationship, engagement and deeper understanding with the technological world that earlier generations do not possess. Early study of computer science and engineering at St. Margaret’s is a unique opportunity to leverage the inherent predispositions of these digital natives growing up in a technologically enriched world. All students today must be digitally literate from a young age to successfully navigate school years into adulthood. Further, we know that our ever-evolving technological world needs future generations of computer scientists, engineers and programmers who will identify opportunities and create solutions only they can envision.
 
St. Margaret’s offers a comprehensive and advancing computer science curriculum grades Kindergarten through 12. The academic study of computer science and engineering begins in Kindergarten and focuses on robotics, simple machines and computer coding. Robotics and simple machines are an excellent tool for introducing and exploring engineering, stimulating imaginative thinking and providing real world meaning to otherwise abstract concepts through hands-on learning.
In Kindergarten and grade 1, students begin basic programming with the use of Bee-Bots, a programmable floor robot, acquiring sequencing, strategizing and problem-solving skills. Students in grades 1 -6 move on to more advanced LEGO Robotics. Students begin with the essentials, learning about the benefits of simple machines such as levers, pulleys, gears, wheels and axles. They work with partners to build a robot from pre-defined directions and then move to a challenge, creating their own robot working within a set of parameters to create a solution.
 
Building and programming robots introduces and fosters critical computational thinking skills behind programming of identifying a problem, breaking it down into smaller pieces, developing a strategy or algorithm to solve it, and troubleshooting when it doesn’t work as expected.  It also nurtures collaboration with other students, persistence and creativity.
 
In addition to coding with Bee-Bots, computer programming continues to instill computational thinking with Scratch Jr., a graphical computer programming language, taught in grades K – 2. In grades 3 – 4, students build on basic coding skills advancing to Scratch, a block based visual programming language. In grades 5 – 6, students combine their knowledge of robotics and coding, to program their own robot to perform a variety of tasks using LEGO Mindstorm.
 
In the Middle School, grades 7 and 8, students transition from graphical programming to text-based programming using the language LUA, coding with the app Codea on their iPads.
 
The computer science curriculum advances in the Upper School with higher level computer programming classes in three different computer languages, Processing, Python and Java.  Students can then move on to two Advanced Placement courses, AP computer programming and AP computer principles, as well as two post-AP courses, software engineering and mobile apps development.

ICE Thinking Process

Introduced in the Lower School, students use the ICE process—imagine, create, and engineer, a thinking methodology that St. Margaret’s educators created that encourages experiential-learning combined with design thinking, robotics and engineering concepts. Through experience with ICE, students gain a foundation thinking methodology that nurtures creativity and innovation that they can apply to all facets of their learning in the future.
 
Using ICE, Lower School students engage in design challenges that require them to collaborate, problem solve and develop possible solutions. Students are required to come to conclusions on their own, compelling students to be active participants in the engineering process through testing, adjusting and improving. After reading the book, “A Chair for Mr. Bear,” for example, grade 1 students review Mr. Bear’s problem and design and construct a chair sturdy enough to sustain Mrs. Bear. Grade 3 students design and create a dwelling for native American tribes they are studying. The story, “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” has grade 4 students focused on designing a solution to help the young girl on the island get food, provide shelter or retrieve water. In the novel, “A Bridge to Terabithia,” grade 5 students research and design a model to get over the bridge using the same planning stages that occur in a major construction project.
An independent preschool through grade 12 college-preparatory day school in Orange County.
St. Margaret’s Episcopal School
31641 La Novia Avenue
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
949.661.0108