We share stories from three clubs around the world who are beginning to hold in-person Code Club sessions once again. Hear their stories and their top tips!
Meet the clubs
The Mount School Code Club in York, UK had to stop meeting in person back in March when the UK lockdown began. The club switched to weekly online Zoom sessions, but when the school opened its doors again in September, volunteer Ruth was keen to try to resume meeting in person.
“It was nice being able to carry on remotely, but somehow the atmosphere of an in-person club has a greater feeling of togetherness.”
For Rohima’s Code Club in Sutton, UK, it was a similar story. Club sessions were paused during lockdown, and a shift in focus to support parents and children to learn from home meant that they weren’t able to run their club online.
As a parent governor at the school, Rohima was prepared to restart her in-person club as soon as it was safe to run after-school clubs again. When she got the go-ahead in September, she was excited to get started.
“I had really missed running my club. It was always a highlight of my week and the interaction in a face-to-face session is always different from running online.”
Ali and Mustafa in Baghdad, Iraq, have been working to support young people across the country as part of their volunteering initiative Coding4Kids. From the beginning of March, they worked to continue running workshops and club sessions via Google Meet and Zoom.
“Although it was quite challenging to manage the classes, we did our best to continue with our passion. We worked on projects from Raspberry Pi, to Scratch, and tried to increase the awareness about COVID-19 with topics like wearing a mask, the importance of social distance, and other related suitable projects.”
The pair realised that a cinema could act as a safe space to run in-person sessions, and were able to secure a venue and sponsorship with the Iraqi Cinema.
Getting back to in-person sessions
Regulations around in-person events and restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic differ widely between locations, so it’s important to check your local health guidance and speak with your venue when planning in-person sessions.
Ruth met with the head teacher in advance of restarting her club, so she was fully briefed on the school’s regulations.
“We spoke about the maximum number of girls we could have in each session and how we could maintain social distancing between them. We also took into account the bubbles the girls are in during the normal school day.”
For all three Code Clubs, sanitising hands and equipment is important. Both Rohima and Ruth’s clubs ensure that no equipment is shared between attendees, with each young person either bringing or being assigned their own computer.
At Rohima’s club, volunteers must sign a form at the start of each session, so that they can be contacted if someone becomes unwell. She is also required to maintain social distancing, and has adapted the way that she runs her sessions to fit this format.
“Instead of now going to the kids when they’re stuck, I use the whiteboard and the teacher’s PC to demonstrate steps and support their learning. We have also been doing more code-alongs this term to keep them focussed and explain key coding concepts.”
At Ali and Mustafa’s club, transparent plexiglass between seats and reduced club numbers allow children to code together safely. At each session, volunteers prepare a safety zone where each attendee checks their temperature, puts on a mask, and sanitises their hands. Sessions also take place at a time when only club attendees and organisers are likely to be inside the cinema. Their club has now run several sessions, including one designed specifically to support local orphans.
Ruth’s top tip is that preparation is key: make sure that you know what precautions you need to take at the venue well in advance.
“The girls are so used to having to do things a bit differently at school now, it hasn’t fazed them. Yes, it’s a bit more work, but it’s so rewarding that I’d say if you get the opportunity, take it!”
Rohima recommends making sure that you know what equipment will be available, so that you can plan your session. She also says that being comfortable with the projects helps if you need to support with debugging from a distance.
And finally, Ali and Mustafa shared that it’s important to continue doing what you love!
“We encourage educators to resume their in-person clubs again if it’s safe to do so! Keep the passion and creativity up!”