Time to get coding in Belfast

Back in August, the Code Club team went to visit a Code Club in Belfast run by some fabulous volunteers from PwC as part of their Hive Hackers project, which engages with 6- to 11-year-olds and teachers at primary schools across the region to teach coding and technology. PwC was also collaborating with the Time to Code programme run by Business in the Community Northern Ireland to set up the sessions.

Ciara Mulgrew, Programme Executive at Business in the Community, came along to the session too. She said: “In today’s digital age, IT literacy is so important. Young people are growing up surrounded by technology, but many still lack the basic IT skills that future jobs will demand.”

Hive Hackers

At this Code Club, the children had been using Code Club Scratch projects to build up their programming skills, and the volunteers had begun each of their sessions with a presentation explaining the learning objectives of the project the club members were going to work on.

“The increase in knowledge that the children displayed was testament to the amount they had learned over the duration of the course. They all gave 100% in every session and weren’t afraid to dive into the deep end.”
— Mark, volunteer from PwC

Our visit took place during the club’s final session, and the volunteers had arranged some special activities. To celebrate the projects that they had created, the children had the opportunity to present and explain their animations on-screen.

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The volunteers had created something special of their own: they finished the session with a quiz, asking questions based on computational thinking concepts and recording the young people’s answers on a live scoreboard. Children viewed the questions on-screen and voted for the correct answer. The scoreboard generated lots of excitement!

“It was great to see that the kids were getting loads of correct answers, reflective of how much they had learned.”
— Niall, volunteer from PwC

We’re thankful for the support of Business in the Community Northern Ireland’s Time to Code programme, whose team connected us with these committed volunteers to get more kids coding.

Get involved

If you’d like to get involved in running Code Club sessions in your local community, you can find out more about volunteering here.

Tinkering and sharing at Sheldon School Code Club

Earlier this year, we announced that we are growing Code Club by extending its age range to include 12- and 13-year-olds. We caught up with one of the secondary schools who are running a club and spoke to Computing and IT teacher Tom Shaw at Sheldon School in Chippenham to find out more about his Code Club for Year 7 and 8 students.

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Sheldon School, Chippenham

What inspired you to get involved with running a Code Club?

The club is run after school, and although I assist, I wanted resources which allowed the students to get stuck in with a high degree of independence. I was really looking for accessible resources to get students experimenting and dipping into code-based projects with minimal hassle.

Tell us as a bit more about your Code Club.

The club runs on a Tuesday after school, and I have approximately 20 to 25 regular attendees who are mostly in KS3 Year 7 or 8. My sixth-form computer science students come and help whenever possible.

Once set up, Code Club is very simple to deliver. I also haven’t had to push the club too much — I just put it on our school clubs list and students came and had a go. Word quickly spread, and now the club is basically full!

The Python projects are very popular — I have used those in the classroom as well as in the club. Some students have also used the projects at home.

In addition to coding, we do mix it up with a little Minetest for pure fun, and with some team competitions.

Can you explain a bit about why running an extra-curricular coding club is important for your students?

One of the more ethereal aspects of promoting a subject in school is trying to generate a ‘culture’. We have lots of enthusiastic users of computers who love to game and so forth. Capturing that enthusiasm and turning it into something productive without losing the element of fun — that is a trickier thing to do. The Code Club structure and resources are enormously useful in helping a coding culture develop, and I really enjoy the non-formal tinkering and sharing that goes on.

Are you interested in starting a Code Club at your school? Head to the Code Club website to learn more.