MERRILL — CM CARES, the Church Mutual Insurance Company foundation, will support an Information Technology Summer School pilot program for eight area school districts this year – D.C. Everest, Edgar, Marathon, Merrill, Mosinee, Spencer, Stratford and Wausau, according to a news release issued Thursday.

The purpose of the pilot is to help area communities develop student competency in IT coding, as well as to stimulate overall interest in IT. As part of the pilot program, the school districts will offer coding classes to fourth- through eighth-grade kids who are interested in developing skills in computer science.

CM CARES will cover the cost of supplies for the summer offering, including 15 Minecraft licenses and 15 coding manuals for each participating school. The class offering is built around Minecraft, a computerized game popular among youths. While using the Minecraft program, students work with a coding language called Python.

The program allows students to connect to popular learn-to-code platforms and engage with computer science concepts as they design and create.

“We believe interest in IT has to begin in the elementary schools if we are going to make a significant impact on the IT workforce in area communities, said Laura Hughes, chief marketing officer at Church Mutual.

The courses will be offered during the early summer months for three to four weeks. School districts are responsible for hiring certified teachers to deliver instruction. Each school will be paired with a Central Wisconsin Information Technology Alliance (CWITA) business partner who will define his or her company’s use of coding to the partner school, as well as fund a field trip to the respective business.