Coding for fun

We have just finished the first term of coding club and as always, Scratch was the children’s favourite coding program across all the schools. I’m always keen to see the reaction of the children when I tell them that we are going to try something different. The majority will tell me they prefer Scratch! I love Scratch, too; in my opinion, it is the best coding environment for children.

That said, it is important that the children get exposed to other software and activities – not just Scratch – to test and enhance their computational thinking knowledge and ability to solve problems.

In my experience, a child’s depth of understanding of code becomes more apparent when they are exposed to different programs.

This term the children created some wonderful games and stories.

To see more projects, go to the Codingbug YouTube channel.

Summer of Code 2019

The third #SummerOfCode has come to an end. A big thank you to our sponsor Viper Innovations for hosting us again and providing drinks, snacks and some magic for the children (yes, talented magician included!).

Day One: we got off to a really good start with our first workshop for 6 and 7 year olds. The children arrived with their tablets ready to create an animated story with ScratchJr… and they all did! By the end of the two-hour workshop, the children were confident enough to create an animated story and also learnt some coding basics. At break time we were treated to some magic by one of the members of staff!

On Day Two we covered all the basics on how to create a ‘Space Invaders’ game in Scratch and how to program it. This was a challenging workshop, especially for the younger attendees, but they should be very proud of what they managed to achieve in a short period of time.

Day Three was all about physical computing with BBC micro:bits. The children busied themselves for a couple of hours learning to program the micro:bit and controlling a light (On/Off), turning on a fan, making music, dimming lights, etc… all with code.

Day Four was packed with students from different schools across North Somerset. We had a mixed-gender group and all were keen to learn how Apps are made. The children created their first Apps using the JavaScript language and were then able to play with the Apps they created.

Day Five was about learning with Python. It was great to see that some of the children came well prepared with Python already installed! They created their first Python chatbot and they were all pretty proud of what they achieved in only two hours.

A big ‘thank you’ to our sponsor Viper Innovations for supporting the event and helping us give the children these opportunities. A special thanks to all Viper’s STEM ambassadors and helpers.

Paper circuits

During the final term of the school year and as part of Yatton Junior School Learning College, I led a group of children through four sessions looking at some basic electronic principles and ‘how electricity works’.

The children learnt about electronic circuits and how to make them using copper tape. Once they grasped the principles, the children were able to design their own circuits with LED’s… and make them light up.

Copper tape works really well with paper but there were the inevitable connection problems. However, the children used a multimeter to debug their circuits.

The children made a house out of paper that lights up… and also made pop-up greetings cards.

I was very pleased to hear that some of the children had later used batteries to test their circuits at home, so a big ‘thank you’ to the parents who helped with their child’s requests!

Paper circuits give children a great introduction to physics and I’m looking forward to repeating the experience.

If you would like a Paper Circuits workshop at your school, get in touch.

Coding with robots

As part of their Learning College programme I spent four hours at Yatton Infant School, teaching children in Year 1 and Year 2 to program with robots.

We used the Matatalab robot which can be made to move, sing, dance and draw by programming it with coding blocks. The children created their own instructions to guide the robot and move it around.

The children participated in a series of activities where they were introduced to algorithms. They created an algorithm for a dance routine, which they then performed to their friends.

The children programmed the robot to draw squares and triangles, which they then coloured in and assembled. Working with the robot was great for the children to better understand all about shapes and angles.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I’m looking forward to returning to Yatton Infant School with the Codingbug robot.

If you would like to see the robot in your school, please get in touch.

Physical computing

This term the children have learnt how code plays a fundamental part in our physical world.

To demonstrate this, we used a variety of sensors which the children were able to use with the micro:bit. They used code to make a fan turn, to turn lights on and off, and to control music… among many other things.

Using the micro:bit, together with sensors, gave children the opportunity to learn about ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’, digital and analog signals.

I loved observing how playful and engaging this can be and how the children used this as an opportunity to collaborate to make stuff work.

Here is a short video of one of the activities:

Coding at Portishead library

I was delighted to be given the opportunity to run two coding workshops for primary school children at Portishead library at the start of the Easter break.

I planned the workshops – ‘Make a Minecraft Game’ and ‘Make a Pokémon game’ in Scratch – to challenge the children. I created two levels of difficulty, which meant the more advanced coders were able to create a scrollable platform game.

I only wished we had had a bit more time to go through some more coding challenges.

Thank you to all the staff at Portishead library staff for their support. We will be back soon.

If you would like a workshop at your school in Portishead – please do get in touch.

Show and Tell at coding club

At coding club we always allocate time for ‘show and tell’. This usually happens near the end of a session when the children have finished their projects, and are ready to show them to the rest of the class.

I always consider this an opportunity for the children to show their pride in what they have achieved. Naturally, there are children who do not wish to show their projects to everyone but are still quietly proud of their achievements. However, I always encourage children to say something about their what they made – how the end product was produced; what was the most challenging; what characters they used; and what they would like to add next.

This is also an opportunity for the rest of the class to give feedback, and get some ideas for their own projects.

With practice, the children become more comfortable at ‘show and tell’. Younger children always get inspiration from seeing the projects of older groups… and what they can do themselves.

I encourage parents to ask their children at home about their Scratch projects and praise them for their achievements.

The Hour of Code 2018

The Hour of Code is a global event during the Computer Science Education Week. This year it took place from 3 – 7 December. At coding club we like participating in the Hour of Code, and this year was no exception.

The ‘Minecraft Voyage Aquatic‘ was a favourite for the children in Year 4, while the ‘Dance Party‘ was a great hit with Year 5’s and Year 6’s. We had ‘show and tell’ at the end of the session – the children performed their own dance party too!

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e-Textiles at Learning College

e-Textiles Projects

I had the opportunity again to run some e-Textiles workshops at Yatton School as part of their Learning College programme.

This time I had twelve children – a mix of boys and girls from Year 4 to Year 6.

The brief for the children was to make a project with felt… and it had to have at least one LED that lit up with a switch. I showed the children some examples, which they used as inspiration. However, most of the children decided to make something  different and we then embarked on a project that had to be designed and executed over four 90-minute sessions.

The children had to think very carefully about their designs and how the electronic components were going to fit perfectly. This thought process wasn’t easy, but once the children understood the constraints of their design, they were great at adapting them.

Once the design was put into the fabric, it was time to think about the electronic circuit – an opportunity to learn about electricity and basic electronics.

Only a handful of the children had ever done any sewing before, which meant they had to learn the basics before embarking into sewing their electronic circuit into their fabric.

With the electronic circuit in place, it was time to put the final touches to their projects… with a little bit more sewing needed to finish off their designs.

Every single project was created with a lot of thought and care. I’m so proud of every child that participated, not only did they create something very personal, but something they will appreciate and use. It was a real labour of dedication, concentration and hard work. Well done Yatton School children 🙂

 

Autumn half-term coding

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We held some very successful coding workshops for primary school children at the offices of Viper Innovations in Portishead over the Autumn half-term.

Our hosts made their fantastic boardroom available to us for three mornings during a normal working week. The children turned up with their laptops and learnt to code a spooky game in Scratch, made a Minecraft zombie game, and learnt how to code the micro:bit.

The Minecraft zombie game in particular was a real hit with the children and there was a real buzz in the room with everyone adding their own ideas to the game.

The children had an opportunity to show-off their projects with a ‘show and tell’ at the end of each of the sessions. The grown-ups present were very impressed with their creations.

Thank you to all the parents that let their children attend the sessions – and a special thanks to those who supported their children during the workshops.

Finally, a big *thank you* to Viper Innovations staff for their support with the workshops and to their STEM ambassadors who were of great help – including the ‘magician’!

We hope to repeat the experience again next year!

What parents told us was the best thing about the workshops:

“My son loved everything about this workshop”

“The boys hadn’t used the micro:bit before, so it gave them a new experience in coding in a relaxed atmosphere.”

“Thought the Halloween content was great.”

“Flexibility to fit all ages and abilities”

“My son was engaged and excited… he’s looking forward to attending again.”