#VolunteersWeek – Inspiring stories from Hampshire Libraries’ Code Clubs

by Dan Powell, Code Club’s Regional Coordinator for the South East

About 18 months ago, Code Club started a project with Hampshire Library Service to start five Code Clubs in key libraries across the county. This was around the time the Society of Chief Librarians announced its Code Green initiative, which foregrounded digital engagement in libraries, and Jade Bower at Hampshire Libraries and I were excited about the opportunity to get young people coding in their libraries.

The first five clubs proved to be a success and so the project rolled out to a second group of libraries: there are now 17 active Library Code Clubs across Hampshire! There is also a great community of Code Club leaders and Librarians who share ideas about what works for them, and who actively support new clubs as they start up.

I spoke to a group of Code Club volunteers and librarians to see what they think of the project and what the benefits of running a club are.  

Radka Ford, who is Library Team Manager for Winchester Discovery Centre and Chandler’s Ford Library, started off by telling me a bit about her club: “We have been running a Code Club at Chandler’s Ford Library for about 18 months. We have two great volunteers who are supported by two library staff. Children code on laptops and work through ready-made projects available on the Code Club website, and some of them code on micro:bits and also in HTML. Kids really love coding, we seem to have a never-ending waiting list of children wanting to learn to code!” Radka also had this to say about the Code Club volunteers at the library: “We couldn’t do this without Code Club volunteers! One Code Club volunteer landed a paid job in programming rather than working for a supermarket. How inspiring!”

image007

One of the volunteers at Eastleigh Library, Andrew Daniels, got involved because he wants to pass on the skills and experience he’s developed during his career as a programmer. Andrew finds it rewarding working with the children who attend the club, and he says Code Club “brings a new change to my routine. I get to help shape lives. It’s amazing when parents of children tell me how important Code Club is to their lives.”

Librarian Lucy Geary, who is based at the Basingstoke Discovery Centre, talked about her experience of coding and Code Club. “As a member of library staff, I was pleased to get involved as I enjoyed the little bits of coding I did at University and this was an opportunity to get something mentally stimulating involved in my job at the library. I have very much enjoyed learning the different languages.” Lucy’s club is supported by volunteers from New Voice Media, a local company, and she describes the volunteers as “amazing – their staff are professional programmers and bring amazing knowledge and enthusiasm to the club”. But the best thing to her is seeing how the children who attend the club grow and learn: “It has been very satisfying and a pleasure to see the different groups of children grow in their ability and in their level of interest and commitment as the weeks progress. Sometimes the difference from week one to the end is unbelievable!”

David Hughes has been volunteering at the Farnham Library Code Club since the end of last year. Like many Code Club volunteers, he is not a coder by trade but is enthusiastic about digital making and a member of the Raspberry Pi Community. For him ,“it is important to give back in line with the values of the Raspberry Pi community. Code Club allows me to help the next generation of coders and budding techies.”

All in all, the Hampshire Library Service project has been a great success, and there are libraries starting Code Clubs in Hampshire almost every month now! A huge thank-you to all of the Code Club volunteers and Hampshire Libraries staff who have shared their skills and enthusiasm for coding with so many children across the county.

Interested to run a Code Club in your local library? Head over to our website to learn more and sign up! You can also watch our video below, featuring Tile Hill library in Coventry.

#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.

Try a Pioneers challenge with your Code Club!

Have you heard of the new Raspberry Pi Pioneers programme, which challenges children and young people aged 11 to 16 to get together and use technology to make awesome things? Code Club Regional Coordinator and volunteer Lorna Gibson took part in the last challenge, acting as mentor for her Code Club’s Pioneers project. She told us a bit about her experience:

I have been running a Code Club since January of 2014. At our school we have developed a strong culture of being digitally creative: the larger of our two Code Clubs has over 40 children attending because we have rarely had anyone leave. This means that many of the young people there have been with me since the very early days, and they have devoured the Code Club materials and every suggestion of “Go off and find out more about X!” that I could come up with. Last year I prepared various challenges to help them extend their knowledge, keep their enthusiasm going, and – to be honest – to keep them busy. So when I first heard about the termly Pioneers challenges, I jumped for joy!

A big attraction of running a Code Club was always how simple and easy it is, since the projects do all the thinking for you. Pioneers has the same appeal: the programme coordinators have done the hard work of coming up with the challenges and the stimulus materials for the teams. They provide a multitude of resources that are tailored to the challenges and have enough variety to appeal to everyone. The resources are perfect for getting started and learning new skills. The competitive element of the Pioneers challenges helps give a real-world context to the activities, and also (and this is where I definitely can’t match up) there are cool prizes to be won. Pioneers is a perfect accompaniment to Code Club since it allows young people to use the knowledge and skills they have developed in a creative challenge.

If you can run a Code Club, it’s definitely possible to support a team to enter a Pioneers challenge. The Pioneers coordinators estimate that one Pioneers challenge takes about 10 hours of contact time over the three months for which the challenge is open. While we worked on our project as a weekly club activity, some teams run a shorter hackathon-style event to work on theirs. Whatever is practical for you, all teams will go through roughly the same project stages, nicely summed up by one of my first Pioneers teams:

→ The theme is announced

→ Go crazy with ideas

→ Design and develop something epic

→ Reflect on making – what did you learn?

→ Make a cool video (a mobile phone is all that’s needed!)

→ Submit the cool video

→ Celebrate your awesomeness!

At each stage, the team will need support to get to the next one, without being spoonfed of course. This is where you come in! If you are considering mentoring a team, don’t be put off because you think you will have to solve big technical issues for them – you could do that, but I think it would defeat the purpose of the challenge. Instead, think of yourself as a facilitator: be the team’s sounding board (we all know that often when we explain a problem to someone else, often routes to the solution present themselves); be their inspiration (show them that you don’t know everything yourself and point them towards ways to find solutions on their own); most of all, be their cheerleader (celebrate their successes, and also their resilience after setbacks).

You can find out lots more about Pioneers on the Raspberry Pi website rpf.io/pioneers, and be sure to have a look at the fantastic Pioneers mentors guidebook here.