A couple weeks back, Michael and I volunteered for an event at the Coralville Library organized by Erica Binegar and called "On Your Mark! Get Set! Code!". It was a one hour class in which kids of 5th/6th graders of any ability level or previous experience were invited to the library to pair program for 1 hour under the guidance of a group of professional mentors (Including us there was Trish Ball from Continuity). Erica had told us that leading up to the event -- she had several sleepless nights and anxiety nightmares because she worried that either she didn't have enough planned to keep the kids busy, or that it would be too challenging. She couldn't have been more wrong. The day went off without a hitch!
To me, the most amazing things about events like this centered on younger students with a natural curiosity towards software is just how unlimited everything seems. Those kids have just started to learn all of the options they have to create and you can see in their eyes that there is no limits to what they can do. Picking up these skills must make them feel like a novice and Superman all at the same time. There is so much to know, so many tools and best practices to learn, so many right answers, and yet look at the amazing things possible after learning even the most basic programming skills.
Most of the kids from this group actually were relatively experienced for their age. So our mentorship was supplemental, rather than required. All the better, as we got to really push a few pairs of the kids to try new things with the Scratch programming language, and overall just enjoy our time there and the energy in the room.
Events like this need to continue to happen. There was so much passion and creativity, everyone there was inspired (the adults in the room too). Kudos to the Coralville Library for organizing this event and we hope they do it again in the future. Michael and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves there.
"It was really cool to watch the kids work together to solve the challenges that 'Ready Set Code' gives them. It was fun listening to their questions because it showed that they had genuine interest in what software developers do on a day to day basis. The hour was fun for both the kids and the volunteers"
~ Michael Lyon
At the very end of this event, I spent 5 minutes showing the room an example of how to apply programming skills to a real-world problem. I chose an example of organizing photos from multiple sources by renaming and creating a consistent directory structure. I had recently written a NodeJS script to do just that. It was a great end to a great event as it got the kid's minds focused on applying the skills they had been practicing.
We at Bio::Neos love to participate in our local community so contact me if you'd like us to come volunteer at an event you are planning. We try our best to keep tabs on everything that is going on, but there are so many great things that we are bound to miss a few, so don't hesitate to reach out to us.