Student Volunteers: Giving back to your community with Code Club

Code Club are looking for student volunteers who would like to share their skills and spare time to help inspire the next generation of digital makers!

If you haven’t already heard of us, Code Clubs are weekly coding sessions for children aged 9-11, which take place in schools, community centres and libraries across the UK (and in countries around the world!).

We have some amazing student volunteers who have been helping to run Code Clubs in their local communities. This includes Kirsty Hayward, who volunteers as part of Success4All, an educational charity in Newcastle that helps children, young people and families through their learning hubs.

Read on to learn more about Kirsty’s experience volunteering with Code Club – perhaps it could inspire you to start your own Code Club as well!img_7280

What inspired you to volunteer for Code Club?

When I arrived in Newcastle for my undergraduate degree, I was keen to find a good volunteering opportunity to give something back to my new local community. Through Newcastle University’s Go Volunteer Scheme, I contacted Success4All and got involved volunteering as a tutor in STEM subjects in S4A’s Learning Hubs. During the year, S4A’s Code Club needed some extra help and I began learning more about Code Club and helping out. In September 2015, I took overmanaging S4A’s Code Clubs; as well as growing the number of clubs, volunteers and outreach events that Success4All works with. When I started volunteering, I recognised Scratch and some HTML coding from my own secondary school ICT education back in 2008, which I enjoyed greatly, but I am no tech expert!

robot-004-copyTell us as a bit about your Code Club

Currently I host 4 Code Clubs across Newcastle upon Tyne with a team of 5 volunteers. Last year, we reached over 40 children between all of our Code Clubs with around 10 children at each club. The children have worked through many of the Scratch projects and enjoy making many of their own from their incredible imaginations! We have also worked through some of the HTML/CSS and Python projects using Trinket. Our Code Clubs have been able to invest in a few Lego robots and received several BBC micro:bits from Code Club, so we have been learning how to code with these extra gadgets. The Lego robots and micro:bits are especially popular in the Code Clubs and definitely engage the children to think outside the screen and how things work in the real world.

What would you say are the benefits of volunteering for Code Club?

Code Club develops a fantastic little community amongst the children, helping them learn a new skill, of which they become very proud. Many of the children delight in sharing what they have learnt with each other, building friendships between children who may not usually talk to each other. They love becoming experts in Scratch and returning to their curriculum ICT lessons brimming with all their new tips and tricks to share with the rest of their peers. It is incredible to know you have created this environment for children to be inspired by their own work and the code behind their favourite games and websites. Running a Code Club tests many of your interpersonal, teaching and managerial skills, and gives you a fantastic array of examples of using your skill set for job interviews and CVs.

Why is Code Club important to you?

The Code Clubs I run are in areas of Newcastle marked by poor educational achievement. Working with a group of children who may have a negative relationship with learning and education, it becomes all the more rewarding when the children become inspired by something they have discovered in Code Club and develop a renewed enjoyment of learning new skills. In our Code Clubs, we embrace the chaos and take a friendly self-directed approach to learning, encouraging the children to create their own questions and experiment with the possibilities of coding and the depths of their imaginations. This is an aspect of our Code Clubs that I am really proud of. I hope Code Club helps the children to think differently about learning and enables them to develop transferable skills that they can use to improve their education in school and into the future.

How does volunteering fit into your schedule?

robot-003-copyThe Code Clubs I run all take place after school in the evenings. Currently, as a full time university student, my schedule is relatively flexible, so it works for me to volunteer for Code Club around it. On a typical Code Club day, I will travel to the club straight after university, compensating for the study hours spent at Code Club by taking 1-2 hours out of my weekend or evening.

What has been your best ‘Code Club moment’?

There have been so many Code Club moments where I have been very proud of the coders, by their achievements and behaviour towards each other. I was particularly proud of one child, who is normally quite quiet and focused on his own work, who began sharing tips to help others with their Scratch projects.