Learn to code at libraries

Over the first six months of this year we partnered with North Somerset Libraries to deliver a series of ‘in person’ coding clubs and workshops for young people. The programme was over-subscribed, attracting many children from different parts of the district. This was heartening given the disruption caused by the pandemic.

Attendance didn’t drop off through the course programme so I need to give a big thank you to all the parents and carers who ferried their children to the library venues – and the young people themselves, for their enthusiasm and commitment.

Thank you to those who have shared their feedback so far.

Here’s a quick visual summary of the programme!

Make a Chatbot in Python (Feb 2022 )

Children coding a chatbot in Python

A 3-hour workshop where the students created their first chatbot in Python. This workshop took place at Yatton library.

Introduction to Wearable Technology (Feb 2022)

Children learning basics of electronics

A 3-hour workshop where the children learnt the principles of Wearable Technology and made a badge that lit up. This workshop took place in the library at The Campus in Worle.

Web Design (March 2022)

Children building a website.

The children learnt to code in HTML and CSS and made a website about an imaginary pet. This coding club was delivered over 6 weeks at the Healthy Living Centre in Weston-super-Mare.

Create fun Apps with JavaScript (March 2022)

Children coding Apps in JavaScript.

A 6-week coding club on how to make interactive Apps. This course took place at Nailsea Library on Saturday mornings.

Physical computing with the micro:bit (March 2022)

Children coding with the micro:bit

Coding with the micro:bit was a coding club delivered on Saturday mornings at Yatton library – again, over 6 weeks. The pedometer was a real hit!

Make a Minecraft game in Scratch (April 2022)

Children coding a Minecraft game in Scratch.

A 3-hour workshop where the children learnt how to make a Minecraft game in Scratch. This workshop took place at Weston library.

Paper circuits (April 2022)

Children building a paper circuit.

A 3-hour workshop where the children learnt basic electronics concepts and made an electronic circuit for a greeting card. This workshop took place at the Healthy Living Centre in Weston-super-Mare.

Learn to code in Scratch (May 2022)

Children coding in Scratch.

An introduction to the Scratch programming language. This course took place over 6 weeks and by the end of the course the children had created a game which they could interact with. The course took place at The Campus in Worle.

Learn to code in Python (May 2022)

Students learning to code in Python

Learn to code in Python was another 6 week course for late primary and secondary school students. This course was delivered at Weston library. A big clap to those teens who got up early on those Saturday mornings… and remained wide awake during the lessons ūüôā

Introduction to the RaspberryPi Pico (June 2022)

Making a traffic light system with the RaspberryPi Pico.

Physical computing with the RaspberryPi Pico. This was a 3-hour workshop where the children learnt to code a traffic light system. This workshop was delivered at Nailsea Library.

What parent’s said about our courses:

He loved it. Thank you so much for the opportunity. It’s definitely sparked a passion.

He absolutely loved it. He created a blushing cactus. He was really proud of what he created. Thank you so much.

She really liked it and enjoyed attending the course very much. She has been using the things she has learned at home.

My son really enjoyed coding club, and learnt a lot from it. He continued to practice what he had learnt at home. Now his younger brother is keen to learn!

He really enjoyed the sessions and was keen to show us the apps he’d created. He had previously only done a little coding in Scratch so learnt a lot. He liked being creative with coding, making apps that reflected his interests and sense of humour. Thank you for these sessions.

She was keen to go each week, a sure sign of the fact she was engaged! She has an interest in coding from doing Scratch at school and was pleased to show us what she had learned.

Both of my girls really enjoyed themselves. They were proud to show me what they had made when they got home and both said they would love to do another workshop one day. Thank you!

He is happy with it. He is into coding and Phyton is one of the hard things to learn. He learned so much from these lessons.

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:

Micro:bits start at primary school

During the last term of the school year, I ran five sessions on how to program the micro:bit at Yatton and Mary Elton primary schools.

The micro:bit is an electronic device created by the BBC to encourage children to code. The BBC distributed micro:bits to secondary schools in 2016; since then the micro:bit has grown in popularity and it is now available for anyone to purchase for their own use (for less than £20).

I got my hands on a micro:bit as soon as it was available with a view to introducing it to primary school children. I then bought a further 10 micro:bits – enough for twenty children to work in pairs. The devices have been fantastic and the children have loved programming them.

We used the JavaScript blocks editor, as the children are already familiar with the Scratch block programming language. Once the children understood how the micro:bit worked and how the code is downloaded and transferred to the micro:bit… the fun really started.

The children were challenged to display letters, numbers, play games, build a compass, check the temperature and listen to music notes. I was pleased to see the children’s enthusiasm; it was like ‘a pet’ that obeyed their orders and commands. It made them laugh and they loved going around the room sharing with their friends.

The micro:bit is not just for secondary school children. As more children become more confident with coding, they are ready to be challenged, and the micro:bit is the perfect device for this. It is easy to set up and get started.

I look forward to running more micro:bit sessions in the next academic year and continue to challenge the children.

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micro:bit workshop

During the half-term I ran a¬†workshop about¬†‘Getting started with micro:bit’ – an¬†electronic device created by the BBC to get children coding.

The session was a couple of hours long –¬†enough time to cover all the basics and for the children to write their first programs.

We opted to work with the JavaScript block programming interface. The children that already had some experience of coding with¬†Scratch found it relatively easy to get started. The ‘drag and drop’ interface makes it more accessible for¬†younger children.

All the children had the opportunity to get setup with a¬†micro:bit. Seeing the childrens’ smiles as their first ‘Hello World’ program displayed on the micro:bit was a great moment.

Once the children understood how to download their programs to the micro:bit and test them, the tinkering and the fun started. We took advantage of the micro:bit accelerometer and created a ‘guess-the-number’ game, which was played by shaking the micro:bit. The children *loved* shaking the micro:bit and seeing the results on the display.

Tinkering with the micro:bit is a great way to get young people into coding and understanding about the connection between the code and its interaction with the real world.

As always, thanks to The Curzon Cinema in Clevedon for hosting us.

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