Combining Computer Science and the Arts with Creative Coders

13 Mar 2024 Students collaborating with computers

  1. Urban Arts and Minecraft Education are teaming up to bring coding education to diverse middle school students from low-income communities.
  • Creative Coders is a new, standards-aligned computer science curriculum combining coding and the arts.
  • Urban Arts has received a $4 million grant from the US Department of Education to bring Creative Coders to 70+ schools over the next four years.

Introducing computer science (CS) in middle school, before students from traditionally underserved communities begin to self-select out of STEM courses, is a promising strategy to help diversify the tech workforce. However, only 3.9% of middle school students are currently enrolled in foundational CS courses. Arts and technology nonprofit Urban Arts and Minecraft Education are working together to address this with Creative Coders, a new CS curriculum offering an engaging, effective, affordable, and scalable path forward for middle school CS programs.

Bringing Coding and the Arts Together

Creative Coders adapts both Minecraft Education’s and Urban Arts’ highly successful CS curriculums to a middle school setting. Urban Arts’s unique unplugged, arts-based activities are paired with engaging game-based learning experiences in Minecraft Education, leveraging the familiar world of Minecraft to teach introductory CS in middle schools.

Students will learn digital game development and introductory CS skills through this new curriculum. “Yes, we teach our students to make video games,” says Philip Courtney, CEO of Urban Arts. “Why? Because it’s super-fun, and students are more likely to persist while they learn challenging tech if they get to create a game at the end.” Urban Arts teaches digital game development as a pathway to college and career for young people of color, girls, LGBTQ youth and others underrepresented within STEM and STEAM.

Students working in a computer lab

Creative Coders students will design and program their original video games in Minecraft Education as they learn programming basics and skills aligned with CSTA Standards. Laylah Bulman, Senior Program Manager and Executive Producer at Minecraft Education, says, “Minecraft Education is proud to be the cornerstone of the Creative Coders initiative. By harnessing the immersive power of Minecraft, we're not just engaging students in coding through video game design, we're also inspiring them to imagine, design, and create their futures. This program empowers teachers and students, fostering a generation of problem solvers equipped with the skills to navigate and shape the digital world.”

Supported by a highly competitive $4M Education Innovation and Research (EIR) grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Urban Arts will partner with 70+ schools and 3,450 students over the next four years, encouraging confidence—and futures—in STEM/STEAM for diverse students from low-income communities. “This provides an unprecedented opportunity for Urban Arts to reach a huge market. For good,” says Philip.

Creative Coders will be available to all students and educators with Minecraft Education. We will be releasing the curriculum later this year, stay tuned!