Nebraska teachers attend CryptoClub in Chicago

Angela Blank, Bonnie Saunders of UIC, Virginia Clark, Jeremy Renfro and Janet Beissinger of UIC
Angela Blank, Bonnie Saunders of UIC, Virginia Clark, Jeremy Renfro and Janet Beissinger of UIC

In our February newsletter, we promoted the CryptoClub Project, a free workshop at the University of Illinois-Chicago for teachers interested in leading an after-school "CryptoClub."

Four teachers from Nebraska attended the June workshop: Angela Blank, Cedar Hollow School in Grand Island; Virginia Clark, Waverly Middle School; Jeremy Renfro, Goodrich Middle School in Lincoln; and Trina Hellbusch, Boone Central Middle School in Petersburg.

The CryptoClub Project is developing classroom and web-based material to teach cryptography and related mathematics, as well as material to support leaders of these activities. Current work, funded by a five-year NSF Informal Science Education grant, focuses on after-school programs for middle-grade students and Internet activities that involve cryptography, including a multiplayer cryptography video game.

"They have interactive games so students can go in and type in a message and code it, then give it to a friend who can then go in and decode it," Angela Blank said.

Blank said there were 40 participants at the June workshop in Chicago. Several teachers from Illinois attended, but there were also teachers from Massachusetts, Utah and Kansas. "All of them were really excited to have something new to offer as an after-school program," she said.

The workshop organizers brought in teachers that have done the CryptoClub in the past couple of years, and they showed videos of what they’ve done in their clubs, Blank said. Workbooks were provided for up to 20 students.

Blank is starting a CryptoClub at her school, and the first meeting is Oct. 23. She plans to have the students meet twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays and get the projects done by Christmas Break, since 16 to 20 meetings are recommended.

"I have a handful of students already wanting to participate," Blank said.

Another workshop will be offered next summer in Chicago, with registration deadlines in March. See more at: .