September 28, 2017 - 4:15pm
Nanaimo club inspires kids to learn Computer Science in a fun, engaging way
Colourful animated characters, a bit of string and interactive puzzles are some of the tools Vancouver Island University (VIU) Computing Science students will use to help kids grasp the concept of coding.
VIU is partnering with University of Victoria’s (UVic) Science Venture, a non-profit organization that offers hands-on learning opportunities for children, to host the Nanaimo Coding Club. The Nanaimo club runs on Thursdays from 6 - 7:30 pm from October 5 to November 9. The club is for Grades 5, 6 and 7 and people can register for $60.
Student instructors will teach participants coding with the help of Scratch, a project created by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, and Computer Science Unplugged, which is a collection of free learning activities that teach Computer Science through games, puzzles and the use of strings, crayons and other objects.
Scratch allows kids to create interactive stories, games, music or animations simply by dragging and dropping pieces of code together. The program was designed for youth aged eight to 16, but can be used by people of all ages. Once children finish a program they can upload it to the website where it will join millions of other programs created by site users.
“It’s a real accessible way to teach coding,” said Dr. Sarah Carruthers, a VIU Computing Science Instructor. “We live in a world surrounded by computers. I think it’s important for people to start understanding what is going on under the hood just like a car.”
Melisa Yestrau, UVic’s Director of Science Venture, said coding promotes critical thinking, problem solving skills and can also be a vehicle to apply math in a meaningful way.
“Canada has a growing digital economy that needs talented and skilled people from a diversity of backgrounds,” she said.
Teaching coding to kids is also a valuable experience for VIU students, said Carruthers, because when people have to teach children concepts they need to distill them to the core and that can lead to the discovery of holes in their own knowledge. It can also give graduating students a competitive edge over someone with the same degree because of the volunteer experience.
Another benefit of teaching children is that their enthusiasm can inspire people around them, said Carruthers.
“I find it revitalizing when I see excitement in someone else. It can reignite the spark in yourself,” she said.
Recognizing a need to make science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs more accessible across Vancouver Island, UVic’s Science Venture partnered with VIU to bring its coding programs to mid-island youth.
“Our Nanaimo coding club will give youth a chance to make mistakes, try new things and meet Computer Science students and faculty,” said Yestrau. “We hope this builds their confidence and encourages them to further pursue STEM learning.”
Rachel Stern, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University
Tags: Teaching and Learning