ENTERPRISE — Huddled in a group, several students are typing away, trying to create a ghost using computer code on their laptops.
For the last three years, Mississippi has implemented computer science programs in 75 school districts, according to the Mississippi Department of Education. The goal of the program is to have computer science in K-12 in Mississippi by 2024.
On the nationwide level, Mississippi is one of 22 states with computer science standards. According to Code.org, there are 1,342 open computing jobs in Mississippi and 13 schools in Mississippi offer computer science.
A new program
This year is the first the pilot program is being offered at Enterprise, with middle and high schoolers taking classes in computer science.
The middle school offers computer science discovery, while the high school offers computer science principles, which is advanced placement computer science. Middle school teachers Holly Gavin and Casey Hudson say the class allows students to move from being consumers of technology to becoming producers of technology by creating apps.
“It opens up a level of confidence for students,” said Gavin.
Over the summer, teachers from Enterprise, Lauderdale and Kemper counties attended a conference in Atlanta, where they learned how to integrate computers in their classroom by using Code.org. The website has lesson plans for teachers and allows students to follow along.
Gavin has a background in elementary education, while Hudson has a background in reading. Both teachers participated in the training during the conference.
At Enterprise High School, Jacqueline Lewis teaches a group of about six students in her AP Computer science class. Lewis, who had a 17-year-career in electrical and computer engineering before becoming a teacher, has been fighting for years to bring computer science to the district.
“I’m so thrilled to be in this pilot,” said Lewis.
Josh Perkins, the district's superintendent, said one goal of the program is to encourage kids to be critical thinkers. In the long term, he hopes computer science will be a requirement in the curriculum.
In the classroom
Lewis believes computer science is important because a technology-savvy workforce will bring more industry to the state. To that end, she encourages her students to consider computer engineering, electrical engineering and aerospace engineering.
Sarah Fury, a senior, wishes the class had been offered sooner, because she wants to major in computer science and minor in robotics in college. She became interested in computer science when a teacher encouraged her.
"I always thought coding was kind of cool," said Fury.
Fellow senior Hunter Donald plans to major in business in college, then go to law school. He said the computer class makes him think, because he learns problem-solving through different computer programs.
Myles Vince, a senior, likes the programming aspect of the class. He likes learning different ways to solve problems.
"Whenever it clicks, it feels really satisfying," said Vince.
Gavan Sullins, a junior, planned on studying aerospace engineering in college, but has decided to change his major to computer science. He's applying what he's learning in class by creating a web page for the band at the school.
"Taking this class has opened a new door," said Sullins.