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Date: Jun 24, 2008
Hofstra Computer Science Teacher Launches Brooklyn Computer Camp for Kids
Mobilizes students, community residents to donate time and space to give kids high-tech learning experience
Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY – Some children in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood will be learning how to write computer programs under a summer program organized by Gretchen Ostheimer, Ph.D., a neighborhood resident and a Computer Science professor at Hofstra.
The computer camp will run on five consecutive days starting Friday, June 27 from 1-4 p.m. The Sheep Station, a neighborhood restaurant and pub, is donating space and an afternoon snack for the first few days of the camp. Another neighborhood resident and Web programmer is also donating his time, as are some of Dr. Ostheimer's Hofstra students, who will travel to Brooklyn to mentor the neighborhood kids.
About a dozen kids ranging in age from 8 to 12, more than half of them Hispanic and almost half of them girls, have signed up for the camp. Many of the children would not otherwise have the opportunity to learn computer skills at this level. Some middle school and high school students will be helping out as tutors.
"My block is one of those tight-knit Brooklyn blocks where the kids all play together on the sidewalk while the parents hang out together on a stoop to keep an eye on them," said Dr. Ostheimer, describing the residents as a diverse group in terms of ethnicity, income and background. "I've been thinking for a while that I want to do something for the block, and I got the idea of trying to teach the kids to write computer programs in Python."
Python is the computer language taught to freshman in Hofstra’s Computer Science Department. Hofstra is supporting the project by providing and imaging the computers, and Dr. Ostheimer received support for the project from Provost Herman Berliner; Bernard Firestone, dean of the Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and Robert Juckiewicz, Vice President for Information Technology, whose staff set up the computers.
Dr. Ostheimer stressed that the kids will not be playing games on their computers. "Part of what I’m trying to do here is give these kids some academic, professional and intellectual exposure that they might not otherwise get," Dr. Ostheimer said. "It's a giant experiment. I don't know of people who are teaching children of this age to write computer programs. It will be interesting to see how they take to it."
Another benefit of and motivation for the computer camp is that it is helping to build a sense of community in Park Slope, she said, bringing together local residents and businesses as well as Hofstra students, who she said will be learning while they teach others.
Dr. Ostheimer earned her Bachelor of Arts in mathematics in 1979 from Wellesley College. After working in a variety of software engineering jobs in the United States, England and Canada, she entered the graduate program in mathematics at Rutgers University in 1989 and completed her Ph.D. in 1996. She joined the computer science faculty at Hofstra in 1999 after three years as an associate professor of mathematics at Tufts University.
Hofstra University is a dynamic private institution where students can choose from about 145 undergraduate and 155 graduate programs in liberal arts and sciences, business, communication, education and allied human services, and honors studies, as well as a School of Law. With a student-faculty ratio of 14-to-1, our professors teach small classes averaging 22 students that emphasize interaction, critical thinking and analysis. Hofstra offers a faculty whose highest priority is teaching excellence. The University also provides excellent facilities with state-of-the-art technology, extensive library resources and internship programs that match students’ interests and abilities with appropriate companies and organizations. The Hofstra community is driven, dynamic and energetic, helping students find and focus their strengths to prepare them for a successful future.