Coding at home with Willow Brook School

Willow Brook Primary School Academy started using Scratch to help their students keep coding from home while schools were closed. 

Find out how they set up their #CodeClub@Home and read their top tips for running remote coding sessions.

Going online with Scratch

Willow Brook Primary School Academy started their Code Club in summer 2016. With the uncertainty of the past few months, the club was keen to find a way to continue offering engaging extracurricular opportunities to their cohort of young coders.

With the help of Scratch’s free Teacher Accounts, the school was able to offer their students a way to connect through remote sessions called #CodeClub@Home. Multiple Scratch classrooms were set up for attendees, with nearly 500 young coders across several schools offered the opportunity to take part.

Young coders at Willow Brook work on a Kano Windows PC

Online learning is a central part of school life at Willow Brook. Club projects are added to the school’s existing online learning platform, for students to download and work through at home using their Scratch accounts. The club has used Scratch projects from Barefoot Computing and Code Club to run their sessions, starting with one of our favourites, Rock band!

The club also awards certificates, which provide a fun way to celebrate creativity and success, and to keep club members feeling interested and motivated to attend the club.  

Code Club certificates are a great way to celebrate success!

What makes a good online session? 

Allen Tsui, the club’s leader, shared that gaining support from the school’s SLT and multi-academy trust has been a huge help:

“One of the founding principles of our school and its multi-academy trust is offering high-quality extracurricular provision to as many children as possible through its Wide Horizons programme. Its support for Code Club has been enthusiastic from the outset.”   

He also shared his five top tips for running successful sessions:

  • “Make use of the expertise that’s available! Attend free training events offered by the National Centre for Computing Education, Computing at School, or through social media.”
  • “Be limitless in your approach: teachers often work within ‘age-related expectations’, but access to the internet and technology may mean that younger learners are able to engage with what might be considered ‘higher digital literacy skills’.”
  • “Celebrate success by allowing your attendees to showcase what they have made.”
  • “Encourage families and the wider community to get involved.”
  • “Don’t be afraid to ask for donations for your Code Club. Our club has benefited from significant donations and amazing opportunities, such as building LEGO® robots at the Houses of Parliament.”

The club’s new format has received amazing support and engagement from families keen to get involved. And the young people at the club are having a wonderful time taking part too: 

“I love showing my family how I am learning to code using project ideas from Code Club and the online version of Scratch.”

If you’re inspired by Willow Brook School, we have free guidance and resources to help you run your club sessions. Take a look at our website for ideas and guidance on ways to run, or join an upcoming community call.

Take time out and try the NEW ‘Look after yourself’ Scratch module!

Last month, a brand-new Scratch module was launched called ‘Look after yourself’.

This module has six projects based on wellbeing, which will get children making digital games, interactive animations, and apps!

Let’s try the projects! 

Our colleagues at the Raspberry Pi Foundation have been trying the projects. Find out how they got on: 

Relax and stretch is based on an exercise routine project that I worked on with my 11-year-old son during the lockdown. We tried a few exercise apps and videos but none of them did exactly what he wanted so he decided to write his own. That’s the great thing about being able to code: you can make stuff that’s useful to you.”

Tracy Gardner, Content and Curriculum Manager 

Relax and stretch

“My daughter developed a love of puzzles during the summer, so when we came across Focus on the prize, naturally, she couldn’t wait to try it out. We’ve had great fun in both doing the project and challenging members of the family to complete the challenge.”

Darren Bayliss, Programme Coordinator, Code Club Ireland

“Being 9 years old can be hard, so when my son was feeling a bit ‘funny’ about life, we opened the laptop and tried out the Butterfly garden project. It was the perfect distraction and he had such fun making it. I loved that he was worried about the butterflies flying all the time so extended the project by coding some rest breaks. Apparently, ‘it is important to take breaks’!”  

Lorna Gibson, Programme Manager, Code Club 

Butterfly garden

“I recently moved and now live far away from any woods or hiking. I love the Serene scene project because I can code what I miss most about the outdoors: trees, animals, and forest sounds! I can even add rain sounds, which always helps me to relax. I think for my next scene, I’ll have to add some snow :)” 

Christina Foust, Club Programs Manager, USA

A new certificate 

To celebrate this module, we have designed a new ‘Look after yourself’ certificate to recognise children’s achievements.

If you’re based in the UK, the USA, or Ireland, head to your dashboard to download your copy of the ‘Look after yourself’ certificate. 

If you’re based outside of the UK, the USA, or Ireland, head to our Code Club International website to download the certificate. 

Digital Making at Home

The Digital Making at Home team has created a fun range of videos to support young coders to follow this module. If you like, you could use these videos in your online sessions, or send them out as remote activities.

Tell us how you get on with the new module and share your finished projects with us on Twitter at Code Club UK or Code Club World and use the hashtag #MyCodeClub.

Community members share advice for running online Code Club sessions!

We understand that going online to run a Code Club session might be making you feel a little nervous. We’re here to support you every step of the way on this new learning journey. Check out our new guidance on online sessions, and read on to hear top tips and words of advice from Code Club educators around the world.

Try it! 

After a summer break, Meriden Code Club are back running online club sessions on Zoom. They shared these words of encouragement: 

“For people worried about starting something online, or doing anything different with their club, a tip would be to just try it; people won’t expect perfection from day one and you’ll learn so much about what works for you and your club.” 

Encourage creativity

Leeds Libraries created a multilevel game at their online Code Club session. We asked what their top three tips would be:

  1. Make content available in a range of formats and on different platforms to allow as much accessibility to participants as possible.
  2. Create projects with flexible goals in mind to allow for different skill sets and interpretations. 
  3. Encourage creativity! If a coder wants to try something different to what you had in mind, let them run with it. You’ll be amazed at what they come up with.
Lee has attended Leeds Libraries online sessions

Slow your sessions down 

Nicola from Code Club Australia has given some advice on how the pace of your Code Club may change:

“Talk and progress through the lesson much slower than you would face to face, and explain every detail (otherwise you’ll have to repeat it, many times).”  

Nicola from Code Club Australia

Adjust your Code Club start time

Adam runs Fleetville Code Club and has been running online Code Club sessions, using Scratch and Minecraft. Adam shared his advice to help your online sessions run more smoothly: 

  1. Assume your first session is going to be all about getting people set up on their computers. The students might use Scratch at school, but getting it running at home at the same time as a Zoom call takes a little getting used to. 
  2. An after-school online club session will need to start a bit later than an in-school club since the children need to get home ( now many schools have staggered leaving times). 
  3. Students are just as thrilled by receiving online certificates as they are by the paper equivalents – use the Code Club ones or prepare some of your own.

If you are running online sessions and want to share your tips with the rest of the community, write to us at support@codeclub.org and we’ll make sure to pass them on.