Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Wednesday the Learning Blade initiative, supported through a $400,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Education to the Arkansas Public School Resource Center, to increase student awareness and interest in computer science and STEM careers.
Learning Blade, according to a news release, challenges students to take on game-based projects that expose them to different aspects of science, technology, engineering, and math education – commonly referred to as STEM. Arkansas is the second state to implement Learning Blade statewide and, at the Hutchinson’s request, Arkansas is the first state to deploy Learning Blade with a computer coding aspect.
In the program, students are taught computer science skills through engaging academic exercises. Lessons are self-guided, allowing students to work on STEM-based activities at their own pace in the classroom or during after-school programs at no cost to Arkansas’s middle schools.
The program, according to the release, will be implemented across Arkansas beginning in the 2016-2017 school year.
“This effort, along with my computer science initiative, is putting Arkansas’ students in an even better position to land tech-driven jobs,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “As the computer coding movement in Arkansas continues to gain momentum, I look forward to even greater numbers of students taking on the skills needed for these challenging and rewarding fields.”
Arkansas will have more than 126,000 jobs in computer science and STEM fields by 2024, according to officials.