One Year Later: Full STEAM Ahead

Welcome to year 2. I am back and ready to blog about Code Club again. It’s going to be great.

I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be running Code Club again this year! In fact, Code Club is expanding and will be offered at the other elementary school in my district, too. I will be heading up three sessions of Code Club World this school year.  Two in the fall (one on each side of town) and one in the spring that combines 4th grade students from both schools.  This growth is due to a generous STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics with A for art/design) grant from Hypertherm, a local company, through their Hope Foundation.  LOGO_HOPEWith Hypertherm’s support, my school district is going to offer five different STEAM related, free!, after school programs for 1st through 4th graders.  My good friend, colleague, and former engineer, is coaching a Green Team (think sustainability) and an Engineering is Elementary program and I’m going to continue with Code Club and start a Young Inventor’s Club using the Young Inventors’ Program.  The fifth program is the Junior FIRST Lego League.  We estimate that 150-200 students will have the opportunity to participate in one of these programs over the course of the school year.  Sixty will have the opportunity to be Code Club members.

Our goal is to have a positive effect on student’s attitudes toward STEM careers, with our long-term hope that these programs can become part of the school curriculum.

So you can see that it’s going to be a great year with big goals. Code Club starts next month. Time to get ready to code.

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Code Club says “Hello, World”

Finally, six months after first putting together a Code Club proposal, eight months after taking Future Learn’s Teaching Computing, part 1 and learning about Code Club World, one year after introducing Scratch to 4th graders for the first time, today was the first meeting of Code Club.

And the verdict is….the students had fun.  They were totally engaged, on task, and being the kind of goofy, creative, enthusiastic, limit-testers that 4th graders tend to be.  When I called for everyone to save their projects, log off and shut down, one girl looked at me incredulously.  Yes, I said, the hour is over. Parents are now waiting.  We’ll be back next week.  She couldn’t believe time was already up. Score.

code club

Everything went smoothly, if a bit chaotic, but I expected some of that. First order of the day was going over rules & goals while we had snack.  We decided to use school rules and after a number of examples from the students I summed it up as Respect.  We are going to respect each other, the computers and the space (at about this time our cool custodian stopped by and ribbed us about eating in the computer lab.  The one rule he was sure of was there was no eating in the computer lab, and he preferred us to keep it that way).

Then I asked what everyone’s goals were:  Many said they wanted to make a video game (like a new version of such & such game), another student wanted to build a website, some said make a movie, another to design stuff.  Some were concerned we were dreaming too big and we may not be able to realize our goals.  I expressed my goals as wanting everyone to have fun, be creative and learn about computer science.  Just the broad strokes today – we are all dreaming big.

And so we got to it.  Everyone opened up Scratch and I introduced the stage and sprites, sounds and scripts. Then we wrote our first “Hello, World!” project, because that’s what computer programmers do.

hello world

For the last twenty minutes I just let them explore Scratch.  I had two other adults with me, which was extremely helpful. They were both experienced with the 4th grade population and with coding – if not Scratch specifically.

All in all, it was a successful first meeting, yet I am ambivalent about my leadership.  I could have explained things better, or understood better where I need them to be in their knowledge of Scratch by the end of the first week so we can get to where they need to be to be able to design their first game at week 6.  I want to make sure they have a good foundation as well as exposure to different things Scratch can do. Great, thought, but I think I’m going to have think and be more specific as to my weekly goals.  I’m probably expecting too much from the first meeting of the first round of Code Club, but I feel like I’m just winging it.