For the second year, a grant from the Washington Legislature awarded by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction will fund a Vancouver program that brings computer science opportunities to students in special education. Vancouver’s share of the $1 million awarded to schools around the state is $7,585. The Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools again will match the full amount, bringing the total to $15,170. The funds are applied to teacher training and equipment.

Earlier in 2018, the program was tested at Felida, Lincoln and Sacajawea elementary schools, where students with autism and students with verbal and behavioral challenges used iPads and robots to learn coding and boost their problem-solving and social skills. Just two months after the program launched, students had collectively written almost 10,000 lines of code, said Meagan Williams, a special education teacher and instructional technology facilitator leading the program.

Students involved in the program reported feelings of excitement and pride after completing lessons and enjoyed sharing their thinking with their peers. After just a few weeks of participation, students also were able to work on tasks for longer periods of time and hone their emotional regulation skills. Some students developed an expertise in coding that allowed them to become leaders in their schools. Teachers reported that students celebrated one another’s coding progress.

The renewed grant will allow the district to expand the program to more classrooms in fall 2018 and develop resources that teachers all over the district can use for coding activities in both special and general education settings.