#VolunteersWeek – Run a Code Club to learn new skills & meet new friends

This #VolunteersWeek, we celebrate by sharing the experiences of the amazing people who help to inspire children across the UK to get excited about coding and digital making. Amanda Coffey is a parent and she runs a Code Club at Firfield Primary School. We spoke to her about how she got involved with Code Club, and what she has gained from volunteering at her local school. Here is what she told us:

sam_1532-e1496317446153.jpg“I was inspired to volunteer when I was talking to another mum, Jasjit, in the playground and she started telling me about Code Club. It sounded really interesting. I am not a coder, but I had dabbled in the past. For me, coding wasn’t a scary thing, it was just something I hadn’t learnt, but I knew that most of my peers didn’t feel the same way: they were scared of coding. I wanted my children to grow up seeing coding as just another tool, not something scary, but I didn’t know enough to teach them. So when I heard about Code Club, it sounded perfect.

That day I went to my running club and was talking to Ian, the coach, telling him what Jasjit had told me about Code Club, and he was really interested as well. So together the three of us started a club at our school. We have been great friends ever since.

Our Code Club has been running for almost two years. We have between 16 and 18 pupils each week, with a teacher from the school there for support. The club is oversubscribed with a waiting list, we had to put names in a hat in order to choose who could come! I think the reason we have so many pupils wanting to come and code is because we ran a celebration assembly last year, where we were able to share our children’s coding projects with the rest of the school and to hand out certificates. We are lucky that our head teacher values coding enough to give us that opportunity. It is not just parents that don’t know what coding is – the children don’t know either, so inviting them to a Code Club means nothing to them. Showing the whole school the different projects the first batch of Code Clubbers had been able to try taught every child what coding is and how much fun it can be.

I am lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mum at the moment, so I have time to run a Code Club. But I’ve been volunteering for different causes for years. If you haven’t tried it before, give it a go. With Code Club the projects are already made for you, so you don’t have to spend hours planning. It is a very easy club to run. You really will love it.

By volunteering with Code Club, I met two of my best friends, Jas and Ian. I just spent Mother’s Day running a half-marathon with Jas, and she is trying to teach me to cook proper Dal, whilst Ian and I share music and books. It’s been such a rewarding experience running our club together. I love showing the children new things and seeing them getting excited.  They always have the best ideas for what to make and by supporting them I am learning so much.”

Interested in volunteering with Code Club? Find out more on our website.

I’m a Parent, how can I help Code Club?

If you’re a parent looking to contribute to your child’s school community, how about starting a Code Club? Whether you’re a coding expert or an absolute beginner, we’re looking for enthusiastic parent volunteers who can start an after-school coding club in their child’s school.

Interested to find out more? We spoke to Elbrie de Kock, the co-founder of Tech Age Kids, a blog about technology for kids and families.  She started a Code Club in Chandlers Ford in January 2016, and she told us about her experiences so far:


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I was inspired to start my own Code Club whilst trying to help my son find his feet in the world of computing as an enthusiastic young coder. I wanted to make sure my own kids and their peers at school have access to the fantastic resources Code Club have to offer.

At first, fear of not having the right qualifications prevented me from starting a Code Club. However, now I’ve got started, it’s incredible, and I realise my fear was unfounded.

Getting the club up and running

I registered as a volunteer on the Code Club site and then approached the school about starting the Code Club in November last year. From there, we sent out letters to all year 5 and 6 classes and it didn’t take long to fill the club and have a waiting list. We used all the resources available on the Code Club website to help us get started quickly and after Christmas we were up and running.

Our Code Club started in January 2016 and we used the curriculum and materials provided by Code Club straight out of the box. We meet once a week after school for an hour in the school’s computer lab with 18 year 5 and 6 pupils. The school is really lucky to have such a fantastic facility, allowing each child to have their own PC and we have room to grow.

Together with a teacher from the school and 2 other parent volunteers we decided to start with the 1st Scratch module and work our way through the projects. The kids found the first projects fairly easy, but now we are starting to get to more challenging ones. We’ve also added some fun elements, by trying out their Scratch projects with a Makey Makey.

The kids and school liked the Makey Makeys so much, they are planning a fundraising project to buy cool tech gadgets for the school. One fun idea was to host a Code Club for parents!

The benefits of volunteering

I am not a computer programmer and work in digital marketing. Code Club has definitely shown me learning new digital skills isn’t hard.  If the kids can do it, so can I. Every week, I try out the project we are going to do at the Code Club at home. I’m really enjoying it and impressed with my own growing coding skills.

My 7 year old son attends the club with me. I love being able to be part of an activity he really enjoys at his school. It’s great to be able to support your child in their school by starting a Code Club. I see the time I give to prepare and run the Code Club at my kids school as important as volunteering on the PTA or governing body. The school benefits from having a computing focussed activity, your child benefits from seeing you take an active interest in their schooling and you benefit from enabling other kids to be creative with technology.

In terms of volunteering with Code Club, it is really easy and there is a lot of support in the Code Club community. I would say, don’t over think it, just do it! There is a lot of support on the way.

Favourite Code Club moments

I think Code Club is brilliant, and my favourite moments are when the kids’ eyes light up when they get something right, or they have a new experience with technology that is fun and creative. The last week before half-term, we did a more tricky Scratch project. It was fascinating to see how differently each child responded to the challenges they faced.

My best moment has to be, when one of the coders, said at the end of the session, eyes shining with excitement; “Elbrie, I just can’t wait to get home and solve this problem! I am going to get it right!” Now that is what I call a great success.

Run a Code Club & boost your digital skills

Learning to code can be a great first step for children to gain an interest and passion in computing. This interest can open up a range of options for academic subjects and a variety of career paths in the future.

But it’s not just children who stand to gain career-boosting digital skills: running a Code Club is also a great way for adults to develop their coding knowledge.

Helping children learn to code builds your own skills and understanding of computing. We already have hundred of volunteers who have boosted their confidence, and their CV, by running a club.

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Julie Sheppard, a parent who volunteers at a club at Widcombe Primary School in Bath, told us: “Before helping at Code Club I knew very little about coding. Now I have the basic knowledge to be able to create games and animations using Scratch, with future opportunities of using other languages. I would not have made the time to develop these skills if I was not involved in the club.”

For those who already have coding skills, Code Club can offer some new and rewarding challenges. Guy McCusker is another parent who volunteers at Widcombe Primary’s club, and is Deputy Head of Bath University’s Computer Science department. He told us that despite teaching programming to undergraduate students in huge groups for nearly 20 years, “helping at Code Club is a whole new game. Because the volunteers are not teachers, and because the club is meant to be for fun as well as for learning, we have to nudge the members gently along while sneaking in the instruction and recaps that are needed for the information to stick. All the members want something different from the club — everything from just passing time to being super keen to learn programming, and all points in between — so we have to adapt to them all individually.”

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Guy believes that parents and other prospective volunteers thinking about starting a Code Club “shouldn’t think twice — just do it. You absolutely do not need to be a coding expert to be able to run the sessions effectively. The Code Club resources are excellent, very well pitched for year 5 and 6 children, and the demands on volunteers are not that great. The rewards for the children are plain to see as they get to grips with programming concepts and create projects they are excited about.”

Keen to find out more about starting a club at your child’s school? Visit our website, and try our first sample coding project to see how simple and fun coding can be!