TagusValley: Telling stories from Portugal through digital making

TagusValley, a science and technology park in Portugal, partners with Code Club to give local young people the opportunity to express themselves through digital making.

Ellie, Code Club Global Partnerships Manager, chatted to Homero Cardoso, Project Manager at TagusValley and one of the co-founders of its Code Club network to find out more.

Five people facing the camera smiling .
The TagusValley Code Club team

How it started

In the heart of Portugal lies a small municipality called Abrantes. With a sparse population, and not much in the way of a technology industry, many of the young people here think you need to go somewhere bigger for new opportunities — that is until TagusValley brought Code Clubs into local schools.

Homero saw the potential in using Code Clubs to show young people how fun technology can be and how it can open up endless possibilities. He trialled Code Clubs in ten classrooms for a few months, working with teachers to deliver the sessions. It was a big hit.

‘‘The kids loved it, the teachers loved it, the municipality loved it.’’

The local municipality loved it so much they wanted to fund the programme to continue. So Homero gathered a small team to go out to local schools and continue to support teachers in running clubs. They now visit 30 classrooms a week.

“For us it’s a process of discovery — themselves (the students), their capacity, their ability to create something, their discovery of their surroundings.’’

A young coder looking at a screen working on a Scratch project.
A young coder exploring Scratch

The oldest olive tree in Portugal

Abrantes is home to a 3,350-year-old olive tree. Locals will tell you it’s the oldest in the world, but others may disagree! Children in Code Clubs were tasked with featuring the olive tree in a project. They created a game in which a character is trying to pick the olives from the tree, whilst avoiding a bird that is trying to poop on them! As you can imagine, the coders had a lot of fun creating the characters’ reactions when the bird achieves its mission.

By using culturally relevant storytelling and taking a ‘no limits’ approach, Homero says the children’s imaginations grow and grow.

‘’When they start to have crazy ideas, instead of telling them ‘that’s crazy’, we say ‘that’s really cool!’ Have you thought about something even more crazy! We can create anything!’’

This approach has had a very positive impact. Some children have developed an enthusiasm for coding outside of their regular Code Club. One boy was on holiday when he saw a book on Scratch that he insisted his parents buy him. When he came back to school, it was the one souvenir from his holiday he was most excited to bring back to Code Club and show his friends.

Coding as a universal language

Abrantes is home to a multicultural population. When two Urdu-speaking girls joined a Portuguese-speaking Code Club, coding helped everyone to communicate across the language differences. After a quick bit of online translation to find the Urdu version of Scratch, the girls quickly figured out how to create what they wanted, and were able to share their creations along with their classmates.

A classroom setting with children sat in pairs, working on a laptop.
A Code Club session

You can see which Code Club projects have been translated into different languages by clicking on the top right-hand box on the Code Club Project site.

What’s next?

Homero is keen to get his students involved in next year’s Astro Pi Mission Zero. He is also working on a programme to encourage mature students from local universities to volunteer at Code Clubs.

He would like to help more teachers feel confident about teaching coding. Homero sees the training and support as key to fostering the abilities and confidence of the teachers in school, so they can continue running clubs themselves, and to ensure the long-term success of the programme.

Find out more about becoming a Code Club Global Partner organisation.