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Normandy Middle Schoolers Explore Coding, College Life at Summer Camp

When an opportunity arose for Normandy middle school students to gain hands-on learning experience in one of the fastest-growing industries at a major university, one devoted teacher seized the moment.   

“Coding is the wave of the future,” said Passion Bragg, a certified math and science teacher at the Normandy 7th-8th Grade Center (N78C). “We need to expose students to programs that will prepare them for higher education and beyond.” 

Bragg, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Maryville University, was catching up on alumni news when an upcoming App Coding Camp caught her eye. Normandy has worked with Maryville on other projects and thought this would be a great opportunity for her students. 

“Maryville has conducted STEM tours and activities with Normandy students throughout the school year,” said Michelle Schoeck, managing director for the Center for Access and Achievement. “We thought we’d extend the invitation to participate in the camp.” 

Maryville’s Center for Access and Achievement focuses on partnerships with schools and nonprofits to prepare pre-collegiate students for success in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields of study in college and the workforce. This year, Normandy joined students from the Riverview Gardens School District, and Girls Inc., in the two-week App Coding Camp for middle and high school students. 

The App Coding camp targeted students of all experience levels. Students learned Swift Playgrounds, a revolutionary iPad app that teaches tech newbies to write Swift code in a fun, interactive way. Swift is a powerful programming language created by Apple and used by the pros to build today’s most popular apps.Veteran campers used EarSketch, an advanced coding system, to create their own music. 

“I saw this as my chance to learn how to code and I took it,” said Elijah Price, a Normandy eighth grader in the district’s Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program. 

At the final day of camp, Elijah wrapped up a group project where he helped build and program LEGO bytes to a Twister game board. The aspiring engineer spoke about his involvement in extracurricular activities, like the Robotics team, that he hopes will give him a leg up on future competitors. 

The second half of the day included lunch in the Maryville cafeteria and a campus tour. Students also had an opportunity to hear from a panel of STEM professionals as well as chat with Admissions and Student Life representatives. 

As a student in Bragg’s NFTE Startup Tech class, Tyzauna Patrick had prior app development experience. Last year, Tyzauna and her classmates created apps that addressed community needs and developed corresponding business plans. They presented their inventions in a Startup Showcase for a chance to win funding and publicity. 

Tyzauna’s group created DrawWithMii, an app that incorporated music and art therapies to help people cope with physical and mental health issues. 

“Our app relaxed the mind, body, and soul,” Tyzauna said. “It helped people who were going through a difficult time in their life.”

 Bragg, who also teaches the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) class, seeks out strategic partnerships for her students.

 “We toured the University of Missouri-St. Louis where we we learned about entrepreneurship and pitching (business ideas),” she said.

 Her students have also taken class trips to Boeing, the T-Rex entrepreneurship incubator, and the Cortex Innovation Community.

 The experiences Elijah and Tyzauna have had fall in line with Normandy’s mission to equip students with the knowledge and skills required for success in the 21st Century.

“I try to push them because I know what’s out there,” Bragg said. “I know the competition.”