The first rule of Code Club? You are never too young to learn coding. At Code Club.
And Francis Poole, a second year BSc Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence student at Sussex, has been proving this first rule by running an increasingly popular after school Code Club at Fairlight Primary School in Brighton.
Founded in September 2013, Francis has been supporting the notable drive to get school aged children coding – and whilst changes at the primary level curriculum are not due till autumn 2014, many younger pupils have already been developing their programming skills through after-school clubs.
The Code Club movement has been growing rapidly, and there are now close to 2,000 Code Clubs across the UK. These are run by volunteers like Francis, who have programming knowledge they are willing to share.
Twelve pupils have been regularly attending the Fairlight after-school club, completing a number of programming projects using the visual programming language, Scratch. Like many popular visual languages, Scratch consists of jigsaw style blocks that indicate their function through their shape and colour. Novice programmers using Scratch don’t have to worry about making syntax errors in their code, because the blocks only fit together in ways that make sense.
Dr Kate Howland, Lecturer in Interaction Design in the Department of Informatics, went to visit the club to see how the novice coders at Fairlight were getting on. Many of the pupils were building their own simple games where a player clicks on witches to score points, with some creating interactive firework displays. The Code Club organisation provide worksheets to guide children through projects such as these, but many of the Fairlight pupils were going beyond the guides to customise the games and put their own stamp on them.
One pupil, Ethan, was keen to test the limits of Scratch by seeing how fast he could make the witches go. He found that setting the speed to ‘100000000000000000000000000’ didn’t work, but ‘1000’ made the witches just visible in their movement – but almost impossible to catch. When asked for his opinion on Code Club, Ethan felt it could be summed up in one word: “EPIC!”
The school’s ICT co-ordinator, Shauna Stewart, who has been facilitating the sessions with Francis, said: “The year 5 and 6 children have really enjoyed Code Club, so much so that we’ve had to arrange a second one!”
“Francis, from the Uni, has been brilliant with extending the children’s understanding of how to use Scratch. As for us teachers, it’s been a great insight into the new Computing curriculum and made it seem more achievable for all.”
Francis Poole also has plans to start a Sussex student society – recruiting other keen students to spread their knowledge and support the running of Code Clubs in other schools. Watch this space for news on new Code Clubs in Brighton, supported by volunteers from Sussex!