BAY RIDGE — Fontbonne Hall, The Lab School for Girls, has earned the College Board’s 2020 AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award for expanding young women’s access to Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles (CSP). Fontbonne was one of 831 schools to be nationally recognized for this achievement.
This honor also acknowledges the work Fontbonne is doing to engage more students in computer science and to close the gender gap. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women only earn 18% of computer science bachelor’s degrees and account for 28% of the science and engineering workforce.
Fontbonne Director of Technology Mark Surdyka has been overseeing the computer science progress being made within the high school. After launching the school’s Girls Who Code club in 2014, Surdyka said he teamed up with the Edhesive program and the Amazon Future Engineer program last year to incorporate an approved AP CSP course into Fontbonne’s curriculum.
Ten upperclassmen took the inaugural course, learning everything from the fundamentals of computers to working on algorithms to exploring Amazon’s automated approaches in the workplace. They also participated in various projects throughout the school year, which included coding their own program to create a password generator.
Surdyka said the participating students have honed their computational thinking and programming skills while learning and proactively doing something new almost every day. Students in the AP class are currently learning more about digital manipulation and will be creating at least three image filters for their upcoming mid-winter break assignment.
“There will be a couple more projects and then, towards the end of the year, they’ll actually create and submit a computer program that involves everything they’ve explored throughout the course,” Surdyka said. “It’s not just all about the AP exam itself [which is typically administered every May].”
Since receiving the award, Surdyka is thrilled to continue teaching the course next year. “We’re trying to educate our girls in this new area, give them the knowledge, and show them that there are different avenues out there,” he said, listing cybersecurity as a prime example.
In the fall of 2020, Fontbonne launched a new website, logo, and tagline to debut its distinction as a lab school.
“As The Lab School for Girls, we are in the forefront of innovations in teaching and learning across all disciplines. We are not just for future scientists, doctors, or engineers. We are for all students who are expansive thinkers, creative problem solvers, and potential pioneers,” the website reads. “Unique in education, we continually evolve our curricula and our methods to keep pace with the unprecedented rate of change in the world where women will need to thrive and succeed.”
With that in mind, Surdyka said, “We’re continuing to make Fontbonne a place where everyone can be successful and come out with the knowledge and skills that are needed for today’s job market.”