Volunteer stories: Evan Cusick

We love to hear about our volunteers’ experiences running Code Clubs across the country – we spoke to Evan Cusick, who ran a club at a school in North Belfast. Though Evan’s club was small, he had a great impact on the students he worked with…

Hi my name is Evan Cusick, I ran 7 weekly Code Club sessions from September to December 2015 at Edenbrooke Primary School in North Belfast. This was my first time running a Code Club or anything similar and I don’t think it will be my last!

I signed up to Code Club as I have always enjoyed volunteering with children and wanted to play my part in passing on coding skills to the next generation. Fortunately, my company Kainos is hugely supportive of tech outreach activities, especially Code Club, and allows employees half a day a week to volunteer.

Starting The Club

I ended up starting my club at Edenbrooke after a request from Pamela Algie, the teacher with responsibility for the school’s IT and Computing. After a meeting to discuss dates and time I ran the first session within 2 weeks, after-school in the computer room. During the term we covered Code Club’s first scratch module using the exercises available for registered club leaders to download from the website. There was an attendance of around 3 pupils, with 2 boys pictured below attending every week.


Running The Club

I found that volunteering with Code Club took about 3 hours of my time each week, including preparation and organisation. A helpful tip is to run through the activity yourself beforehand so you can anticipate any problems the pupils may run into. In general, the club was fun and relaxed with my involvement being pretty ‘hands off’ as the kids were able to follow and complete the activity sheets themselves with little assistance. Indeed, after a few weeks the more capable pupils were able to help and guide their fellow club members when they had finished that week’s activity early. Another helpful point I picked up is to ask the pupil who is stuck if they understand how the code is meant to work, they are usually able to work out the problem themselves with a little prompting.

What I got out of it

I had an enjoyable time teaching the club attendees how to build apps in Scratch. I would definitely recommend volunteering with Code Club to anyone who is considering it. There is nothing to worry about as long as you are prepared, organized and enjoy interacting with children. If you go for it, you will be surprised by the ability and enthusiasm the kids will have for programming!

Would you like to help provide children in your area with the chance to get excited about coding and digital making? Find out more about volunteering with Code Club.

Keen to share your volunteering story? Pop us an email at hello@codeclub.org.uk




Embracing ‘chaos’ in your Code Club

Code Club’s Senior Content and Curriculum Manager, Rik Cross, is not only in charge of creating the amazing projects in our curriculum – he also runs a Code Club in his local school in Leeds. Here he tells us about how to make the most of the high energy and enthusiasm that comes with running a Code Club:

At a recent Code Club meet-up, I was chatting to a volunteer who asked for tips on running a Code Club because they felt that some aspects of their club were, in their words, ‘chaos’.

This got me thinking that, in some ways, my club can be chaos too – and I think that’s a good thing. Obviously there is a need for rules and structure within a club, but children also need an environment in which they feel free to experiment and share ideas.

Here are a few ways in which I’d consider my club ‘chaos’:

Children work on different projects. They are personalising their learning, working on a Halo 002project that interests them, at their own pace. I’ve known children skip projects that don’t interest them, or spend weeks on a project that captures their imagination. Some children may, after completing a handful of projects, decide that they have enough knowledge and skill to build something of their own.

Children move around a lot. They look around at what others are making, getting ideas and inspiration. They often invite others to play (i.e. test) their finished projects, and then make improvements based on feedback they receive. Children get a lot of motivation from seeing others huddled around their computer, playing and enjoying a project they made. For this reason, children often make sure that their project is of high quality before allowing others to play with it.

Robot 004It can sometimes get loud. Children ask each other questions, and move around the room to help each other out. They test each other’s projects, giving verbal feedback, sharing ideas or even just having fun with the things they’ve created. When children are motivated to create things that interest them, I think it’s important that they have time to enjoy the things they’ve made.

Children play games. My club use online Scratch, and so as well as playing each other’s games they do get time to play other Scratch projects online. Obviously it’s important that this doesn’t dominate a club, but I think children learn lots about what’s possible with Scratch – especially when moving past the basics. Posting their own creations online is also a great opportunity for children to get real feedback from the community.

What some volunteers call ‘chaos’ is in fact part of the fun, and part of the learning experience; it is how children show the excitement and enthusiasm they feel when making things with computers. All this differentiates a Code Club from regular computing classes, so I always advise volunteers to embrace it!

Create your own Curious? Festival Rock Band: Hip Hop Edition!

This month, Curious? Festival is back at King’s Cross on Saturday 23 July. Powered by the King’s Cross Knowledge Quarter, Curious? is a festival offering a fusion of science, culture and art.

And as part of the festival, we’re teaming up with Central Saint Martins to offer children a chance to enter a coding competition to win a VR headset!Create Your Own Rock Band Hip Hop editionAll you have to do to be in with the chance of winning is to have a go at customising Code Club’s “Rock Band” project, creating your own hip hop soundtrack and customising your stage to make something totally unique! Here’s an example.

Once you’ve created your own version of the Rock Band project, you’ll need to upload it to the competition’s Scratch Studio. There you’ll also be able to check out the other entries.

Competition rules:

  • All entries must be submitted by 10pm on 23rd July
  • Entries must be made via the Scratch Studio. You need a scratch account to do this, please make sure your details are up to date, so we have the correct information to inform winners.
  • Entrants must be 18 years old or under
  • Entries submitted before the competition closing date will be judged by Central Saint Martins Creative Producer, Ged Matthews and hip hop choreographer and director, Ivan Blackstock.
  • The winner will be announced on 1st August

Have a go at customising our “Rock Band” project now!

Submit your entries here