Plankton and Computational Thinking

Dear CS Educators,

Join us for a workshop that connects marine ecology and computer science—
Plankton and Computational Thinking—led by Dr. Darcy Taniguchi from California State University San Marcos.

Saturday, August 11, 10:00-12:30 pm

See flyer. 

Birch Aquarium at Scripps, second floor conference room

Lunch provided by CS-CaVE (Computer Science: Creating a Village of Educators) at UC San Diego

RSVP required by July 25 (limited spaces will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis)

At this workshop, educators will engage in “unplugged” hands-on activities that embody computational thinking practices: defining computational problems, using abstraction, and designing algorithms. Content and pedagogy are best suited to middle and high school level.

“Unplugged” computational thinking activities:

  • Build a physical model of plankton (organisms that drift with the ocean currents), focus on abstraction of relevant features, iteration to improve the model, and discussion of data and modeling in engineering.
  • Create a system to classify plankton images, focus on abstraction, decomposition of big problems into smaller chunks, algorithm design, pattern recognition, pattern generalization, discussion of computer vision and classification in marine ecology research.

Following each activity, we will look at examples of computer code (for computational modeling and classification of digital images) and discuss adaptation of activities for use in your CS classes.

Co-hosted by San Diego CSTA, CS-CaVE, and Birch Aquarium at Scripps

All participants will receive complimentary admission to Birch Aquarium at Scripps for the day.

For an overview, please see Jeanette Wing’s “Computational Thinking,” the K-12 Computer Science Framework: Practices (pages 67–72), and/or Wikipedia

“Computational thinking is the thought processes involved in formulating a problem and expressing its solution(s) in such a way that a computer—human or machine—can effectively carry out.”[1]

For questions about Plankton and Computational Thinking, please contact Darcy Taniguchi ( For questions about Birch Aquarium at Scripps, please contact Nan Renner (

RSVP by July 25


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