Run a Code Club at your Library!

Interested in getting a Code Club started in your local library? We asked Julie Gibson, Branch Library Manager for Omagh Library in Northern Ireland, about her experience running a club. Here is what she says:

robot-015Libraries are all about reading and learning, including about the use of technology, and one of the Libraries NI objectives is to help bridge the digital divide. With this in mind, I thought we were a perfect location for offering local children access to what is essentially taking words (code) and creating a story (program), whether an animation or a game.

After some thought and discussion regarding the practicalities, Libraries NI’s first Code Club met in Omagh Library in January 2016 with 10 children registered. Children have busy lives with homework and after-school clubs, so we decided to run sessions alongside school terms on Saturday mornings, which is also a time our computers are not in high demand.

We were lucky to have Una, Code Club’s Regional Coordinator for Northern Ireland, as our volunteer for the first term, and she got everyone, staff and children, motivated to learn to code by setting up a real whack-a-mole game using Makey Makey, play dough and Scratch!  

Faced with their first coding project the children were enthusiastic. Coding mixes logic with creativity, a great foundation for any child: focus on learning the basics, follow the steps, consider the consequences, and let your imagination soar!

Robot - 002I have to say this is one of the quietest children’s clubs I have ever hosted, as they are all so absorbed by the code, except for occasional outburst of joy at creating something new or of despair at the project not working.  When the latter happens it is usually enough to remind the children to check that they have followed the steps in the worksheet – success is in the detail – and there is always another club member to help if someone needs it. Anyone who finishes a project early either moves on to a new project or goes back over the project they have completed and tweaks it to make it their own, choosing new sprites, stages and conversations. At the end of the term each club member receives a certificate as proof of their accomplishment.

My best Code Club moment? This has to be every time a child’s eyes light up when they see what they have achieved – proving that coding is for everyone.

Learn more about the potential of Code Clubs in libraries by watching our short video on Youtube, you can also sign up on our website.

Family Learning with Code Club

We’re always interested to hear about new ways of engaging different people to learn more about coding and digital making. So when we heard that Leicester Libraries and Leicester City Council’s Family Learning team have been running a pilot project using Code Clubs to encourage parents and children to learn new skills together, we wanted to find out how they had got on.

The pilot was launched in a number of libraries in Leicester. Alison Greet, Family Learning Coordinator for Leicester City Council, told us why they decided to pilot with Code Club: “The Family Learning team wanted a way to work with parents to demystify the coding activities children were covering in school, so that we could help parents to help their children…The training that Code Club was offering gave us a way of piloting a course for parents and children working to code together in our libraries.”

robot-015

Running the pilot:

The club sessions ran for six weeks, focussing on Scratch projects in 1.5-hour weekly sessions. Parents and children sat together and worked through the step-by-step instructions. Two staff members ran the sessions; this allowed one to focus on setting everything up, while the other helped out those who needed more support. The clubs encouraged collaborative learning; Sandy Gibbons from Leicester Libraries explained that “the atmosphere is supportive and collaborative with children being encouraged (or, in some cases, invited) to help each other or show ways to extend the projects.”

Alison added, “club leaders are not IT experts, but they found that the projects were easy to follow and deliver with confidence. The structured projects with clear instructions also enable independent learning outside club time. Skills are built logically and reinforced by repetition in later projects. Skills learnt as part of Code Club projects can be used on the Scratch website to create other projects at home.”

The benefits of running a Code Club:

Lots of new friendships were formed in Code Clubs, and with those friendships came increased Robot E copyconfidence. Sandy explains, “one family specifically joined the club due to a child’s difficulties in interacting independently with groups. There was also great feedback from the adults, who reported their pleasure in having a shared interest that they and their child could talk about and work on at home.”

One of the volunteers said, “seeing parents and children working and progressing together is brilliant. The families really grow, taking responsibility for their learning through taking away evaluations to work on at home and continuing with projects in their own time. Code Club encourages parents to learn both alongside their children and independently, seeing how the children learn.”  

There were also fantastic responses from all families at the end of the course: all have asked to be contacted about further Code Club courses:

Robot 003“I really look forward to the Coding Club each week. I spent a lot of time together with my daughter and feel really happy when I see her using her imagination and IT skills. She loves spending time on IT which is great for her future.”

“The projects are challenging, but, with a bit of brainstorming, we figured it out! Good mum-and-son teamwork!”

“Our family really enjoyed this club. It has given us a chance, as a family, to build our child’s confidence. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience Code Club as adults.”

Run a Code Club in your local Community Centre

Code Club’s flexible model means that volunteers can run clubs in a variety of different venues. We have a growing number of Code Clubs being run in community centres, and so we wanted to profile one of these clubs.

Andrew McKirdy works at CHESS community centre in Nuneaton, where he hosts a weekly Code Club (which is also part of our Star Clubs network). We found out about his experiences, and how easy and rewarding hosting a club can be…

Why did your venue start a Code Club?robot-015

I wanted to start a Code Club at the CHESS Centre to offer young people from a disadvantaged area of Nuneaton the opportunity to take part in a computer programming class. Code Club is perfect to help young people learn about Computing in a fun and accessible way.

Tell us as a bit about your Code Club.

CHESS Centre Code Club launched in April 2016. We run a session every Wednesday at the CHESS Centre in Nuneaton, which is currently attended by 22 children. We are about to launch two further clubs at Camp Hill Primary and St Annes RC Primary schools in Nuneaton.

What would you say are the benefits of hosting a Code Club at your venue?

The best thing about hosting a Code Club is watching the children learn new skills and listening to their experiences of learning to code. It’s a joy to be a part of their development and watching them become more skilled.

How do you work with/ support the volunteers who run the club?

I monitor and guide the volunteers who help me run the Code Club. I set up the classes and allow the volunteers to focus on the young people in the session. I provide all admin, refreshments and so on, which allows the volunteers the freedomchess-centre to focus on guiding the children through the projects for each session.

What has been your best ‘Code Club moment’?

One of the children came to me recently and said,  “I really look forward to coming to Code Club. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Another child in the club loves to show what he has accomplished, he is a very shy lad but coding brings him out of his shell.

Code Club is a truly rewarding experience, and I would recommend it to anyone!

You can visit the CHESS Centre’s Code Club to see first hand how amazing the club is, just head to our website for further details. Want to start your own club? Sign up to volunteer or host a club today!