What is Code Night?
Code Night is a workshop series that our club, EducAIte, will be hosting. Based off the premise of Family Code Night and Hour of Code (see here), the event introduces coding to elementary-school-aged students in grades three through five.
During Code Night, participants are first introduced to an interesting application of computer science and then participate in an interactive coding session. During the coding session, students use a website called Scratch to create their own stories and games with the built-in features provided. Scratch is a coding website designed by MIT for teaching children computer programming. Its fun design and simple block based coding structure conveys basic principles of coding, including commands and logic structures, in a fun and interactive way. Using Scratch gives students an idea of what coding is like and showcases its creative elements.
Code Night: Our Goal
Through this event, our goal is to spark students' interest in computer science by breaking down stigma surrounding it. Increasing diversity, both in gender and race, in this field remains imperative. However, computer science is sometimes considered detached or inaccessible.
Hopefully, after completing the Scratch activity, participants will become more comfortable with coding if they were not beforehand. By exposing young students to a facet of computer science, we demonstrate first-hand that it is not impossibly hard or purely logical. We strive to open up the minds of a greater range of people to the field as a whole, even if only by a small amount.
Our Event at Carpenter: Breakdown
Early Friday afternoon, members of the EducAIte club arrived at the Carpenter Elementary computer lab. After a welcome from Miss Belateche, the science teacher, we started setting up for the event. At three thirty, the students began trickling in and sitting down at computers.
Once everyone was settled, we began our opening presentation with an overview of Code Night. We then discussed an interesting application of computer science, namely robots. Next, we talked about the basic principles coding, such as what a language is and how computers convert code to bits in order to understand it.
Then, we started the interactive coding portion of the event. To get started, we demonstrated the basics of Scratch and introduced the mini-project for the night. The goal was for everyone to create a story animation using Scratch by the end of the event, and we started by showing some example projects we had created beforehand.
After the presentation, everyone started on their own projects. The room filled with the chatter of thirty-eight kids exploring the various features on Scratch, from commands to sprites and sound effects. We allotted around an hour for the coding portion of the event. During this time, EducAIte members walked around the room, answering questions about Scratch and guiding anyone who needed help with their project. Afterwards, we concluded with closing remarks and a survey (for those with a Google account).
How did things go?
We are thrilled to call Code Night at Carpenter Elementary a success. The event went smoothly, and the hour spent on coding sped by in a rush of activity. Students created a multitude of great stories, scenes, and games using Scratch. We were able to answer various questions about Scratch and help students explore its many features. We also talked about the principles of functions, variables, and conditionals as they cropped up in projects. In addition, we guided students through trial-and-error and problem solving methods, both of which are important in computer science.
Overall, we believed that Code Night was a fun and educational experience for those involved. A survey at the end of the event revealed that all participants enjoyed the event, and most of them learned something new and were interested in learning more about coding in the future.
EducAIte thanks Carpenter Elementary for allowing us to host this event on their campus. We also are grateful to everyone who helped out with and attended our first Code Night, and hopes to have more in the future!