When starting your own Code Club, it is useful to remember that there are literally thousands of people who have gone through the process before you.
Here, Code Club volunteer Darren explains how he went from Raspberry Pi tinkerer to Code Club leader. Darren started by supporting a modest club of eight kids, and now he runs sessions with more than 20, including children with Special Educational Needs (SEN).
Staring a Code Club from Scratch
My name’s Darren, I’m 49, and I love Raspberry Pi and Code Club!
I’ve been a Code Club volunteer for around 18 months, but I first started doing stuff in my son’s primary school when I launched a Raspberry Pi Club to teach physical computing. The club had eight kids, and we used some Pi Zeros that I had, as well as six sets of monitors, mice, and keyboards donated by a local company changing its IT setup.
From there I also started a Digital Makers Club, allowing kids to choose their own projects to work on. Here I learned my first lesson: if you have no teaching experience, having six primary school students doing six different projects is quite hard to manage! But we all learned loads that term, and we had six great projects at the end of it.
Then I began my own Code Club (starting with Scratch), so I was running three clubs each week — a very busy year! In July, we held a afternoon of show-and-tell for the rest of the school, and everyone loved it.
By the next school year, the Code Club was very popular, with some of the kids wanting to progress to Python and some younger ones wanting to start to learn. I ended up with 23 students of a wide range of ages and abilities. This would have been impossible to manage if my older students weren’t brilliant at helping to support the younger novices — and they really enjoy passing on their knowledge!
Supporting children with SEN
Supporting children with Special Educational Needs as part of my Code Club has been incredibly rewarding. My first club member with SEN was a boy with ADHD and dyslexia. After his first session, I had a chat with the school’s SEN Coordinator who gave me excellent advice. For example, I learned to print projects onto pastel-coloured paper in order to make the text more readable for him. The next week, the boy stayed focused and engaged for the whole hour. I now make a point of speaking to our SEN Coordinator at the beginning of each term to talk through the list of students and discuss their needs.
Showing children how they can use technology to create things instead of just consuming them is amazing! Code Club also builds resilience and problem-solving skills, which help the kids in their regular classes.
If you are thinking about starting your own Code Club, my advice is: just do it! Being part of Code Club has massive benefits for the adults involved as well, especially those who want to improve their computer science skills.
Another tip is to tell parents not to stand outside the classroom waiting for the club to finish, but to come in and see what the kids have been doing. I love hearing the parents’ amazement at just what these kids are capable of, especially the students who may not be doing so well in their day-to-day lessons.
Finally, remember there is no right or wrong way to run a Code Club. Each club is different, depending on the location, available hardware, mix of attendees, and skills of the volunteers. Don’t worry if the kids go in a different direction than you planned. Let them have fun, and they will learn without even realising!
Volunteering with Code Club is easy!
Has reading this blog made you feel that you, like Darren, could help the next generation to get coding?
Find out how you can get started with Code Club today at www.codeclub.org.uk/start-a-club.