Volunteers stories: Polly from Auto Trader (Part 3)

Over the last few weeks we’ve been posting a blog series from Polly, a Code Club volunteer from Auto Trader in Manchester who started her first club six months ago.

She’s been sharing her experience of running a Code Club with us, chronicling her journey from “ a nervous wreck to a (more or less) confident Code Club leader”.

Polly hopes sharing her story may encourage more people to have a go starting a Club. In this final blog, she reflects on coming to the end of her Code Club, introducing the class to Python, HTML/CSS, and the rewards she gained from volunteering…

Now we come to the final countdown of Code Club. You’ve been doing it for weeks, you’re competent, you’ve built a rapport with the kids and now it’s ending! Just as it was getting good!

ComputerIn the final weeks I felt I really got into my stride and developed a good understanding of how to handle the kids, and more importantly, how to motivate them. A fair few of the kids had or were close to, completing all of the scratch projects, so it seemed the right time to introduce them to some other programming languages.

On the Code Club website there are  HTML and CSS as well as python projects. Unfortunately, the school’s network would not allow Python to be installed on the machines; online Python editors are available but as the instructions on the projects were specific to the editor that comes with the Python installation, it was a bit confusing for the kids. The actual Python projects weren’t as appealing either; the first one was ascii art. After Scratch, where the kids could animate objects, have sound and whatever colours they wanted, ascii art really didn’t inspire them.   

Code 004The HTML and CSS projects went down much better though. The first project was creating a birthday card and the kids really enjoyed personalising them. I introduced them to the colour picker on w3schools, which they thought was great, and after talking them through other functions the w3schools website has on offer, I’m confident that at least a few of them will be learning more through the site. I also told the kids about Code Academy and began going through one of the tutorials so they could see what it looks like. A few of the children in particular really blew me away with their enthusiasm within Code Club, so I have absolutely no doubt they continued using Code Academy over the summer. Towards the end, some of the kids were even showing me games they had programmed in their spare time.

I think it is fair to say that I wasn’t sure how to relate to kids before running this Code Club. In fairness, on a normal day-to-day basis, the only interactions I had really had with them were on modes of transport, when you only really notice them because of the noise! But getting to work with kids on something they were so excited and passionate about has really changed my perspective. You might wonder why I volunteered to run a Code Club in the first place! I saw it as a great opportunity in the early stages of my career to get some coaching skills…and also hopefully learn to relate to children better!

Robot - 003I feel I got a lot more than just coaching skills out of the experience though. There was a fair amount of organisation involved; organising transport there every week, making sure I had the correct resources printed off for the kids, and towards the end, making sure I had enough variation of activities to keep all the kids engaged. I think it is fair to say there was an element of managing involved too. Leaving work at 2.45pm every Friday might sound like a dream but at times it actually became quite stressful. I had to learn to manage my time effectively throughout the week and ensure I didn’t end up in a bottle neck situation on the Friday with several little tasks needing to be finished off before the end of the week. To a certain degree, the kids needed managing too; trying to keep them entertained and interested on the Code Club projects wasn’t always easy, and was something that took me a while to get the hang of.

Overall, running a Code Club was an amazing experience and I would recommend it to anyone. You get to positively impact a group of kids lives as well as the general community. Plus, you learn new skills and have great new experiences! It was exhausting at times, but it was always a lot of fun and I hope that maybe some of them have even been inspired enough to carry on coding.

Top tip! Did you know we have new HTML projects? Take a look here https://www.codeclubprojects.org/en-GB/webdev/