Educator Spotlight in Computer Science: Carla Ferris

  • June 11 2024
  • Bryce

“Boolean Girl has changed my classroom, and has probably been life changing for a number of my students.”

Carla Ferris is a seventh-grade math teacher at the Oyster-Adams Bilingual School, where she has been implementing STEM initiatives for the past two years. She now supervises a coding club sponsored by Boolean Girl, a non-profit organization that engages young people in Computer Science. With support from Boolean Girl, Carla works to integrate STEM projects into her curriculum, helping Boolean Girl determine how best to incorporate coding into subjects like math and science. Carla enjoys educating and supporting her students while fostering a feeling of community through STEM courses.

“A lot of times the kids tell me their math classes have always been so boring... so I love getting to enjoy that experience of kids being surprised to find that math class can be fun,” said Ferris. “There are a huge number of kids who have never coded and are intimidated by it and think that it’s just not something that they can do, so by creating projects and putting them in place in such a way where they have to do it to get a grade, it forces that exposure, and a lot of them end up saying things like ‘I can do this.’ ” CarlaFerris

In middle school, many kids feel the STEM curriculum is difficult and inflexible, leading to disdain for the subjects. However, the interactivity and personal nature of Boolean Girl projects allow kids to relate to their work, creating unique projects in an individual learning atmosphere suited to their own needs and learning pace. Although the intimidation factor when kids first learn coding may be initially discouraging, with time and support from an active and supportive learning environment, many kids can thrive with the hands-on experience they receive while engaging in STEM projects.

“They say ‘I am not good at this’ and they make up their mind,” said Ferris, “I have seen kids like this in my class, but having this exposure and changing their minds can be transformative in terms of the trajectory of a kid’s life.”

Boolean Girl has marked a turning point for many students in their STEM education. In Ferris’ classroom, Boolean Girl sparked many academic success stories, marked by an increase in engagement and interest in coding projects in and out of school.

“I had one girl that was super disengaged and told me that she didn’t like the class and didn’t want to be there," said Ferris. "She got her micro:bit when Boolean Girl donated them in October and there was a complete change; she wanted to take it home, she wanted to practice all the time. All of a sudden, she wanted to have conversations with me about high schools. She was such a turnaround, and it was so noticeable.”

As a result of Boolean Girl’s introduction into the classroom, kids can explore new avenues of learning and engage more effectively with the subject of math as a whole. Regarding her classroom’s reaction to Boolean Girl, Ferris says, “Another student was disengaged, and kept saying ‘I can’t do this.’ I had him try a tutorial, and it taught him how to make a motor turn. He was so excited, and it shifted the way that he approached my class. He started coming to tutoring, his math skills started dramatically improving, and his relationship with the subject completely changed.”

For many kids, learning the practical applications of math can transform the subject from impersonal and detached numbers on a page into a world full of inventions. Boolean Girl allows kids to engage in projects that reflect their own lives and skill sets, not a rigid curriculum that slows their growth and knowledge in math class. With the help of Boolean Girl, many students feel as though they have found their place in math class for the first time.

Not only do Boolean Girl projects allow kids to engage with a STEM-based curriculum, but they also allow kids to advance past previous expectations in their classes.

“At the mid-year point, my students had made it 88% of the way towards their end of school year growth goal," said Ferris. "The level of engagement from the kids is so much higher [than in previous years], and it is allowing us to crush the math standards. I am so proud of that.” 

Amidst a time of incredible growth in STEM education, many teachers still insist on more. According to an EdWeek Research Center poll of 800 teachers, principals, and district leaders, a central theme when discussing STEM education emphasized starting this education earlier, with many teachers believing that an elementary school STEM education would create a foundation in these subjects that would allow later efforts in middle school to enhance existing STEM learning. Assisted by work from dedicated teachers like Carla Ferris, Boolean Girl’s hands-on projects are shaping the future of STEM education, one kid at a time.



Leave Your Comment Here