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Computational Thinking, Preschoolers, and Work It Out Wombats

Children’s librarians play an important role in encouraging early literacy through instruction and modeling. But we can go beyond reading literacy and introduce early learners to 21st century competencies that will help them navigate their connected world.

Read more: Computational Thinking, Preschoolers, and Work It Out Wombats

One key competency is Computational Thinking (CT).

CT is a way to break problems down into parts in order to find a repeatable solution. Although CT as a process can be applied to coding, it also works in other situations. It’s easiest to think of it as a tool for solving problems.  Typically, it’s defined as four processes, as Kaitlen Siu shared in the 2022 Teach Your Kids to Code article What is Computational Thinking

  • Decomposition, or breaking a large problem into smaller problems
  • Abstraction, or identifying the more important parts of the problem
  • Algorithmic expression, or the step-by-step process to solve the problem
  • Pattern recognition, or looking for patterns to see if any parts of the problem have been solved before

Making the Connection, a July 2020 article in Public Libraries magazine, shares that by incorporating CT skills in our work with young children, we can support “twenty-first-century competencies of creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication for the young children in their community.” How do we teach these skills to preschoolers? That’s where PBS KIDS and Work It Out Wombats comes in.

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Work It Out Wombats

Work It Out Wombats debuted on February 6, 2023. It introduces CT to “help young viewers solve meaningful problems, learn flexible thinking and how to express themselves” according to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It is part of the Ready to Learn initiative. There is a lot of supporting material available on PBS Learning Media and PBS KIDS for Parents. Using these materials, we can build early learning CT programs. For example:

Currently, there are four lesson plans available on PBS Learning Media. You could do a Work It Out Wombats as a series, or select just one as a way to introduce CT concepts to preschoolers.

In addition to the materials that are already available, WGBH (Boston) is piloting a learning series called Work It Out @ Your Library. It is “a multimedia initiative for families with preschoolers that takes place both in the library and in families’ homes.” Work It Out @ Your Library is being tested in rural libraries in Mississippi and Arkansas. 

Whether you wait for the WGBH series or create your own programs, Work It Out Wombats is a great tool to start teaching preschoolers about computational thinking.

Written with the assistance of Krista Respass, Managing Director, Early Childhood Education Services, Maryland Public Television.

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Karen Earp is a member of the ALSC Children and Technology Committee and is the Children’s Services Coordinator for Somerset County Library in Maryland. Karen handles all programs, resources, and services for children from birth to twelve for her county-wide library system. She is currently serving her second term as secretary for the Children’s Services Division of the Maryland Library Association and is in the first cohort of the Diverse BookFinder Metadata Community of Practice. In her free time, she reads All The Books, knits and crochets, and makes her own clothes.

This blog post addresses ALSC Core Competencies I (Commitment to Client Group) and III (Programming Skills).

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