Kids activities review: Code Camp

This is a review post.

In the last school holidays our 11 year old was invited to go along to a Code Camp school holiday program. He has had an interest in coding and has attended one other coding program before. He was super keen to try out Code Camp. I was a little worried about how he would find attending a four day program from 9am to 3:30pm as he likes to potter quite a bit on school holidays. I reiterated to him a number of times that it was almost a week long and was he sure he wanted to do it. Each time he assured me that he was happy to do it.

So we booked him in for the first week of the school holidays and from day one he loved it. I asked him to keep a diary of his thoughts on the program so I could share it on the blog, which he did. As you can see he is a man of few words! But you can also see that he rated Code Camp very highly.

Day 1I thought it was really good even with the problems about falling through tile sets.
Day 2I thought it is much better than the other program I did about coding.
Day 3I learnt what a boolean was. I really enjoyed making the game over screen.
Day 4I liked doing the sounds and I didn’t know that you have to have an ogg file as well as the mp3 player file.
OverallMy favourite bit in Code Camp was doing the code because I got to see the code and what it looked like. Another thing I found fun was guessing the code before I had put it together. Overall I really enjoyed Code Camp and I want to do it again.

While the official program starts at 9am, you can drop the kids off at 8.30am. After the first day, the 11 year old insisted that we left home early enough so he could arrive at 8.30am and have time to play on the game and experiment before the class started at 9am.

Each day when I picked him up he had a smile on his face. Not only did he enjoy the learning but he had a great time on the breaks with other kids, running around outside and playing games.

I needn’t have been worried about him finding the four days too much for him. He came home each day enthused in what he had done and keen to head back the next day. They use a program called Stencyl to build their very own game/app.

640 Stencyl actiona

When you drop and pick the kids up, you don’t get a chance to talk to the staff about what they have done, but they provide excellent updates via email about what the kids have done, including a group photo and even a question to prompt discussion about what the kids have been doing. The email for day one suggested asking the kids “What’s the plan for your character and app by the end of the week?” It was a great opening question and the 11 year old went into great detail about his character and the story of his game.

640 Stencyl

And something that surprised and delighted me and the 11 year old about Code Camp was that it didn’t finish after the four days!

640 Code camp emails

A couple of days after completing the camp, we received an email with instructions on how we could install Stencyl on our home computer (you do not need to take a device to Code Camp), how to download his game file and then import it to Stencyl so he work on the game at home.

The 11 year old could then watch a video to learn a new coding element and add it to his game. We have then received a weekly email with a challenge to undertake. After the third challenge email he could resubmit his game so he would be able to play it with the new updates he has made to it.

I think coding is an invaluable skill for kids to learn. While the specific computer coding languages do change, the principles and logic behind learning how to code are the same. This excerpt from The Guardian article Why every child should learn to code sums it up beautifully:

Software is becoming a critical layer of all our lives. It is the language of our world. In the future, not knowing the language of computers will be as challenging as being illiterate or innumerate are today.

Will every job in the future involve programming? No. But it is still crucial that every child learns to code.

This is not primarily about equipping the next generation to work as software engineers, it is about promoting computational thinking. Computational thinking is how software engineers solve problems. It combines mathematics, logic and algorithms, and teaches you a new way to think about the world.

Computational thinking teaches you how to tackle large problems by breaking them down into a sequence of smaller, more manageable problems. It allows you to tackle complex problems in efficient ways that operate at huge scale. It involves creating models of the real world with a suitable level of abstraction, and focus on the most pertinent aspects. It helps you go from specific solutions to general ones. {source}

So next school holidays the 11 year old will do Code Camp again and seeing how much his brother enjoyed it the 8 year old wants to do it too. Head to the Code Camp website to sign up and find out the dates and locations of the winter school holiday Code Camps and we might see you there!

Are your kids learning code?