Volunteer stories: starting a new Code Club

This week we speak to Jenny Riley, who shares her experience of setting up and getting started with Code Club.

Read on to learn how Jenny has structured her first few sessions, and about the impact Code Club is having on the children involved.

Starting a new Code Club

In December last year, I approached the headteacher at my children’s primary school to ask if they would start a Code Club with me as their volunteer. As an undergraduate computing and IT student, I love programming, web design, and the endless possibilities that technology can bring. I wanted to share my passion with others and inspire the children at our school by showing them that they can do these things too.

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Together with the deputy head, we launched our Code Club in January and have been overwhelmed by its success so far. We wanted to start small, so we offered ten places for our after-school club. These were immediately filled, with other students asking when they would be able to join.

First sessions

I was very nervous at our first session, but the students were so excited that they soon calmed my nerves. As the children had already done some Scratch programming, we decided we would ease ourselves in by beginning with the Scratch module 1 projects. This worked well, and over the next few weeks, we quickly got into a routine.

The children have a wide range of abilities; some use Scratch at home, and some had only ever used it once or twice. To avoid problems with students getting bored or finding it too difficult, we allow them to work at their own pace. The more confident students are racing ahead, while others take a couple of sessions to complete a project. Some are enjoying it so much that they continue to work on their projects at home!

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Now we are even setting additional challenges. During one session, a group of students found they had the ability to record and play back sounds, but since we had no headphones available, the session soon got very loud. At the next session, we decided to set them a challenge: we don’t mind you using sounds, but they have to be used within a program. The students rose to the challenge, and by the end of the session we had a fully working animation of a beatboxing, breakdancing boy, complete with audience applause.

Early impact

After only a few weeks, we could see the confidence and independence of the kids soar. As soon as our students arrive, they know what they are doing and get to work. They are happy to tackle challenges that we set them, and they are always looking for ways to improve their projects. As a club, we avoid simply telling someone the answer if they are stuck, and instead encourage them to investigate or ask another student for advice. The students are always happy to help others out or sit down for a spot of ‘buddy-debugging’.

When I set out on this journey, I wanted to inspire the children, but it turns out it is the students who are inspiring me. I am amazed by their ability to just ‘give it a go’, even things they have never tried before. They don’t get disheartened if something doesn’t work, and they are always willing to help a friend. So even if they don’t go on and become computer scientists, I know that being part of our Code Club is helping them learn important life skills and is giving them the confidence to explore.

Get involved

Jenny is one of thousands of volunteers who help us on our mission to inspire the next generation of digital makers. You don’t need special expertise to start running your own Code Club, and you can get started today at www.codeclub.org.uk/start-a-club!

Young girl coder on inspiring others to code

Introducing Rachel Ivory, a student who became a role model for girls at Durham Johnston school.

In this blog post, we talk to Rachel Ivory, an inspiring student who set up the project Social Code at her secondary school. Rachel has been using Code Club projects and resources to introduce her younger peers to the wonders of computer science.


In Year 9, Rachel was the only girl in her class showing a real interest in computer science. When she started in Year 10, the school’s uptake for the GCSE subject was 16 boys and just 2 girls.

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In showing her passion for the subject, Rachel soon heard some stereotypical ideas that computer science is a ‘nerdy subject’ or ‘just for boys’  — and she realised that this was deterring some girls from getting involved.

Making changes

Determined to do something about this, Rachel set up Social Code, an initiative to encourage young people of all genders to take up computer science. Rachel said her aim was “to change their perspective and provide them with essential skills that will benefit them in life.”

Rachel started by conducting research on what was stopping girls in her school from pursuing computer science, and then she ran fun sessions and assemblies to challenge preconceptions.

Soon Rachel, now head digital leader at her school, had built a club that was really making a difference. On the first session she had just three boys attending, but in under a year, five girls had joined the club. Rachel’s club sessions consist of different tasks, games, and challenges, with Code Club projects and resources as an essential component.

“The girls who have come to Social Code are flourishing with computing and learning to code really well,” said Rachel.

Impact

What’s more, Rachel believes that Social Code has made a real impact on the way young people in her school see the subject. She has also been to a number of primary schools to talk about online safety with the aim of attracting the interest of younger girls.

“Providing opportunities for young girls now will provide great things for the world in the future,” Rachel added.

We also spoke to Rachel’s Computer Science Teacher, Mr Garside, who reflected on the great experience Code Club has provided for both the students and staff at the school.

“It has given us the chance to spend a little more time on some elements of computer science than we might have during timetabled lessons, such as getting out the micro:bits and Raspberry Pis.”

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Rachel’s club has been learning with the micro:bit projects

Recognition

Rachel also became the first winner of the Miss Bittlestone Award for Girls in Computer Science at her school. Miss Bittlestone was a former computer science teacher who worked with students to improve the accessibility of the subject. Miss Bittlestone sadly passed away but Rachel has been inspired by her to take the mantle.

Mr Garside is very proud of the work Rachel has done in preparing content, leading assemblies, and acting as role model to younger students.

“Having Rachel as a digital leader has been a real asset to the school, as she is
helping us with our mission to encourage more girls to be interested in the subject,” said Mr Garside.

Start a Code Club

Rachel’s story shows how simple it is to start a Code Club at your secondary school: encourage students to help you run the club, and then register your school on the Code Club website.

Are you running a club like Rachel’s, with older students supporting younger coders? Code Club would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at hello@codeclub.org.uk

Digital collage competition: and the winner is….

Last month we set a challenge for our active UK Code Clubs.

The task? Create a digital collage of your favourite things using Scratch or HTML. Those who chose Scratch used our Tech Toys project as a starting point, while those who chose HTML kicked off with Stickers.

The prize?  The two winners will be honoured with a set of unique Code Club stickers inspired by their entry! Plus, a box of goodies including lanyards and T-shirts.

The result? Over 150 clubs sent us creative collages that warmed our judges’ hearts and showcased the impressive abilities of young coders from across the UK.

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The winners

After much deliberation our judges have chosen two winners — one for Scratch and one for HTML.

Haseeb, 8, Hounslow Library

For the HTML entry, our winner is Haseeb from Hounslow Library! The judges were very impressed with Haseeb’s technical skills, including this use of animated bubbles and an embedded YouTube video in his collage. Plus they loved the choice of colours, and they felt like we really got to know Haseeb’s favourite hobbies.

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Sam, 9, Fellside Community Primary School

As for Scratch, the winner is Sam from Fellside Community Primary School in Newcastle! Sam’s project fit the brief perfectly, and the idea of a beach filled with his favourite things made the judges smile. Plus Sam recorded his own audio introduction — great stuff!

Highly commended

Of course it’s impossible to choose just one favourite, so we would like to give a special shout out to the following projects:

Wormit Primary

We loved the approach the children from Wormit Primary in Scotland took in their HTML project, showcasing their favourite things about being at their school.

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Redbridge Central Library

The judges really enjoyed the interactive aspect of the HTML entry from Redbridge Central Library Code Club in London — being able to draw on your own sticker is a great touch. Well done Ashwin, Labdhi, Ibrahim, Krisha, Sshubhan, Vuyo and Deepika!

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Martha, 11, Markland Hill Primary School

We loved this project form Martha from Markland Hill Primary School in Bolton. The collage simply looked fabulous. What a bright and energetic display of her favourite things!

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Joel, Dexter, and Ryan; Meriden CE Primary School

Finally, we just had to give a special mention to this amazing Code Club theme tune from Joel, Dexter, and Ryan at Meriden CE Primary in Coventry. We’re so glad that Code Club is one of their favourite things!

 

A collection of Code Club swag including stickers, badges, and pens will soon be on it’s way to all the highly commended clubs.

Next time…

Plans for the next competition for active clubs are already brewing here at Code Club HQ! Make sure your club is activated so that you don’t miss out on any important emails.

And keep an eye on our Facebook page and Twitter — you may notice something very soon!