Code Club ideas: young people teach their peers how to code

To inspire more young people to fall in love with computer science, some Code Club volunteers and teachers have had a brilliant idea: get the young people to do the teaching! Here we talk to members of two different Code Clubs that are led by teenagers, and that prove that young people often are the best role models.

St Mary’s and St John’s CofE School

Calvin Robinson is the Assistant Principal and Head of Computing at St Mary’s and St John’s CofE School (SMSJ) in London. He currently runs two Code Clubs in the school as a way to encourage pupils to have fun with computing outside of the curriculum.

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Mr Robinson with the Code Club mentors

One of the Code Clubs is exclusively for Year 8 girls, and it’s run by six girls from Mr Robinson’s GCSE Computer Science cohort:

“The idea behind this was that as a male teacher I appreciate that I may not be the best person to bridge the gender gap, but I certainly recognise it as an issue.”
– Calvin Robinson, Assistant Principal and Head of Computing

Positive role models for younger learners

Interest in the club is high, with a huge amount of Year 8 girls wanting to get involved. Being taught by older girls means that the learners can identify with the people teaching them, and they learn to view what their older peers have achieved as possible for themselves.

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Mr Robinson thinks that participating in Code Club enables the Year 8 girls to become more confident and passionate about the subject, making them more likely to take GCSE Computer Science next year.

“We currently have a higher than national average number of girls taking GCSE Computer Science, and it’s the most popular GCSE option in the school, but we’ve still got a long way to go in bridging that gender gap.”
– Mr Robinson

Benefits for the teenagers

Of course it’s not just the younger pupils who benefit from having older students as their mentors: running a Code Club also gives the GCSE students the perfect opportunity to solidify their coding skills:

“I like how I get a chance to develop my coding skills by teaching younger children. Coding is hard to explain and understand, and being able to teach others is a whole other skill, which is why it has helped me so much in my Computer Science GCSE.”
– Weronika Pawelczak, GCSE Computer Science student and Code Club volunteer

“Running the sessions means that I get to consolidate my knowledge and share it with younger people who may take Computer Science GCSE in the future. Also, the sessions improve my coding and I learn new things I could use in my code in lessons. For me individually, it has boosted my confidence to socialise more.”
– Nadia Wu, GCSE Computer Science student and Code Club volunteer

The Year 10 girls at SMSJ are clearly proud to be encouraging younger girls to fall in love with computing. They also think that more female Computer Science GCSE students should be setting up similar clubs, seeing how successful it has been in their school.

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Dragon Hall community centre

Another Code Club that is partly led by a teenage volunteer is one at Dragon Hall community centre in London. After volunteering at the centre over the summer, secondary school student Alvin was encouraged to participate in running their weekly Code Club.

Club host Keeley Reed has been hugely impressed by the effect Alvin has on the club members:

“Having a student volunteer allows the young people to have a role model to look up to. Alvin has been an asset to the group, as the young people connect with him very well. He brings the whole package to Code Club, that you wouldn’t get with adults.”
– Keeley Reed, Youth Work Manager at Dragon Hall and Code Club host

Like the girls at SMSJ, Alvin recognises the positive impact that helping at Code Club is having on his studies:

“I am now a lot better at explaining concepts, especially in exams, because
explaining code to children always has to be clear and precise. Teaching helps me learn new things as well, because I have to explain concepts very clearly so that the children understand.”
– Alvin, secondary school student and Code Club volunteer

Start a student-led Code Club

Peer-led Code Clubs offer huge benefits, not only for the learners but also for the young people leading the clubs. If you’re starting a Code Club in your school this term, why not get one of your older students to act as a mentor? Anyone over 16 can sign up on our website and help run a Code Club alongside an adult — find out more at www.codeclub.org.uk.

Mission Possible: Empowering the Future Generation of Girls with Coding

Dr. Aygul Zagidullina is a London lead for Google Women Techmakers, which is a programme that provides support and resources for women in technology. Aygul runs a Code Club at the Wembley Library in London, and she is passionate about promoting an equal gender balance at her club. Here she shares her advice on inspiring more girls to code.

We’ve all heard about the low numbers of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). According to a new study from the University of Washington, when given the chance to build a robot, six-year-old girls and boys have the exact same response — equal interest, equal confidence, and an equal amount of fun. Yet unfortunately, many young girls still believe that ‘girls aren’t good at computers’ and push themselves away from STEM.

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Aygul and her family attending a Code Club meetup

Is there any way to resist these perceptions? What can we do to show girls that they can be just as good at coding as boys can be? As Code Club volunteers, we are all doing our bit to help girls fall in love with computer science. We all have ideas on how to improve the gender balance in STEM, and I wanted to share five things we can do now to push things forward.

1. Start as early as possible

Young people today are engaged with technology from a very early age. Teaching computer science as early as possible has the potential to turn these eager consumers of technology into unstoppable creators of it. At Code Club, girls can learn coding from as young as nine, but if your younger daughter shows an interest in technology, you can always download the Code Club projects at home and work through them together. Let’s turn little girls into coding superstars!

2. Challenge gender stereotypes

Children learn more during their early years than at any other time in life. To tackle gender equality, I make sure my Code Club is free of stereotypes that might have a negative effect on how girls feel about programming.

3. Find female role models

All grassroots initiatives that have successfully attracted and inspired girls have one thing in common — the presence of female role models. When the volunteers running Code Clubs are women (especially women who use computer science in their jobs), the girls attending have someone to be inspired by and something to aspire to.

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4. It doesn’t have to be pink

Pink things are not needed to get girls excited about coding — being able to solve the issues they really do care about is what gets girls hooked on computer science. The Code Club projects are completely gender-neutral and give girls the opportunity to create games and solve problems in their own way.

5. Make coding fun!

While parents often worry about screen time, many educators now believe that using apps from an early age can be a great way to get girls interested in coding. Code Club is a space where children can learn an important life skill in a fun and exciting way that’s separate from the formal school curriculum.

I am extremely happy that girls have a fun and safe environment  — all Code Club volunteers have background checks — to learn programming thanks to Code Club and the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Inspire the next generation of coders

Do you want to encourage more young people, regardless of their gender, to get into coding? Then get a Code Club going in your school, or volunteer to help out at an existing club — head to www.codeclub.org.uk/register to find everything you need to get started today!