BoSTEM Coding Activity: For Black History Month Teach Code Poetry By Amanda Gorman
“The Hill We Climb” is one of the most essential pieces of literature that students should learn in 2021 and can be put into any classroom. Also, Amanda Gorman, a previous spokeswoman for United Way, is an absolute icon that I want to encourage students to emulate. At the beginning of this small semester I was challenged by the Makers and Mentors Network to create a maker education focused lesson plan about this poem. I help to facilitate an AP Computer Science class (which you can learn more about here), which doesn’t always have a direct link to poetry! Bellow is my full lesson plan, some of the many student code poems, and an event that celebrates Black History Month.
“The Hill We Climb” is one of the most essential pieces of literature that students should learn in 2021 and can be put into any classroom. Also, Amanda Gorman, a previous spokeswoman for United Way, is an absolute icon that I want to encourage students to emulate. At the beginning of this small semester I was challenged by the Makers and Mentors Network to create a maker education-focused lesson plan about this poem. I help to facilitate an AP Computer Science class (which you can learn more about here), which doesn’t always have a direct link to poetry! Bellow is my full lesson plan, some of the many student code poems, and an event that celebrates Black History Month.
What students came up with on our collaborative Miro was absolutely incredible! The way they went about exploring difficult themes in the poem like immigration, institutional racism and the current state of the U.S. was inspiring. One student during our discussion specifically opened up about the way ICE affected her family and that this poem and assignment gave her hope for the future of our country. Another student appreciated seeing a fellow black woman showing creativity and opened up about how that made her feel more open to sharing her poetry and views with the public.
Students after this lesson privately messaged me a ton telling me that this lesson made them feel empowered, inspired and even solidified a lot of computer science vocabulary that they were struggling with. This lesson solidified in my mind the need to get more creative and utilize the arts, maker education, and give time for students to reflect on current events and injustices in STEM classrooms more often. See the lesson plan below and scroll for more information for our event to continue celebrating Black History Month!
- Opening question: Pick one: How is code like poetry? What is your favorite poem?
- Ask students to answer out loud or it’s perfect for a zoom chat!
- Show students the video of the poem allow them off screen time if they want
- Ask these questions about the poem (10-15)
- What thoughts come to your mind when you heard “The Hill We Climb”?
- Why do you think the author chose to write this poem for the inauguration?
- How did this poem affect you personally? Select one or two lines that stood out to you and explain your choices.
- How would you characterize the tone of this poem? What is the “light” Gorman makes reference to here?
- How is poetry like coding?
- How is making poetry or technology an act of rebellion?
- Give definition of code poetry (5)
- Code poetry is literature that intermixes notions of classical poetry and computer code. Unlike digital poetry, which prominently uses physical computers, code poems may or may not run through executable binaries. A code poem may be interactive or static, digital or analog. Code poems can be performed by computers or humans through spoken word and written text.
- Show examples of coded poetry (5)
- Direct students to miro to personal bubbles to write a coded poem (20, if extra time add here)
- Use these as instructions:
- Write your own poem in reply to Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb.” Choose a line, a vibe or a moment from the poem to inspire your response. What are you waking up to today? What is the miracle in your morning (or mourning)? What hill do you — or we — climb?
- Try this to get started if you are stuck: Stream of consciousness: Write after reading and just capture your vibe or feeling from the poem or the article about Gorman.
- Use any language you feel comfortable with – Java, Karel, or anything else you may have up your sleeve. Consider adding loops to emphasize certain parts of the poem for rhythm or other, variables to show themes or ideas, conditionals to show juxtaposition
- Completely stuck read this: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2018/07/writing-code-poems/
- Next steps
- Encourage students to submit poems to
- More information:
- Use these as instructions:
To expose students to more BIPoC heroes have them attend our Math Escape Rooms this February break (13-22nd) for grades 4-11th, which explores BIPoC mathematicians, reinforces math skills, get prizes and meet Sabrina Thompson (an Aerospace Engineer at NASA and recent children’s book author!) (Find out more by following her on instagram: @girlinspacebook @nefertitipokahontas). Then they can stick around for our “after party” and watch Hidden Figures, make an awesome craft related to math and ask even more questions to Sabrina!
To learn about our upcoming events (including movie nights, math escape rooms and medical board games), access to a library of video conversations with STEM professionals, and more lesson plans/STEM activities to do at home join our weekly newsletter! If your email is overwhelming right now consider joining our facebook group. Finally, if you are a STEM professional or know of a STEM professional that might be willing to do events like this send them here!