Computer Science CTE launches at Burrillville High School

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BURRILLVILLE – Coursework offering Burrillville High School students hands-on learning in the field of computer science has been approved by the Rhode Island Department of Education as an official Career & Technical Education pathway.

The new certified program brings the total number in the district to eight, putting the choices for CTE in Burrillville near the highest among comprehensive high schools in the state. While BHS previously offered curriculum in computer science as a pathway, the stamp of approval means the district’s program has met RIDE’s CTE requirements – in part by providing opportunities for students in both higher education and real world experience.

The approval also has financial implications, allowing the Burrillville School Department to collect tuition for students from other districts who can now sign up for the high school’s program.

Computer Science began as a CTE at the start of the school year this fall, enrolling students under Lead Instructor Dana Bruscini. Students in the CTE become proficient in Python and Java, two widely-used programming languages, and explore the implications of technology on society, and their role as responsible programmers, consumers and creators of digital content.

“Technology plays a vital role in numerous aspects of our lives, and students in the Computer Science pathway have the opportunity to explore how innovations like the Internet and digital media actually work and the positive and negative impacts of digitization,” said Bruscini. “In addition to learning about these topics, students become active participants in the creation of new content by planning and coding their own programs related to their passions and interests.”

“Students are proud and excited when they have a final product that showcases their skills, personality, and point of view,” Bruscini added.

The educator noted that throughout their three years in the program, students enhance their abilities in problem solving, creativity, flexible thinking, and collaboration, skills that she pointed out are valuable in all areas of life.

“Students frequently demonstrate their learning through the design and development of projects, and they are encouraged to choose topics of personal interest,” notes a write-up on the program.

CTEs focus in part on work-based learning through internships, and Amica has signed on as an official corporate partner in Computer Science.

“Problem solving and an understanding of how technology works in the world around us is key to being successful in many careers today,” said Amica Lead IT Specialist Sue Harnois. “The Computer Science CTE Program provides our high school students with the opportunity to learn these skills and provides them a great learning pathway to careers in Information Technology.”

Bruscini noted that through a partnership with the Microsoft Philanthropies program Technology Education and Literacy in Schools or TEALS, instructors have been able to bring industry professionals into the classroom as volunteers to assist with teaching and provide a real-world perspective on how the skills are applied in the workplace.

“We have had multiple volunteers from Amica, including two from Burrillville who have been integral in the development of our Computer Science program,” she said.

The approval makes Burrillville among the top K-12 districts in Rhode Island in certified CTE program offerings.

“In the state, I believe we are either 3rd or 4th for comprehensive high schools,” said Maria Quiray Lawrence, director of strategic initiatives for the Burrillville School Department.

Quiray Lawrence said that the district plans to launch one more CTE in the near future, bringing the total to nine. Other current CTE programs offered at the high school include: Construction Manufacturing, Education, Graphic Communications, Engineering, Environmental Science, Biomedical Science, and Law & Public Safety. The Burrillville Middle School also has two CTE gateway courses, including Design and Modeling, and Automation and Robotics.

Quiray Lawrence noted that BMS is also launching three CTE student clubs this year, including Graphic Communications, DECA/Business, and Biomedical Science.

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