Jacob shares his top tips to running a fun and engaging Code Club

In February we met educator Jacob from Penpol School in Cornwall. He volunteered to join the Code Club panel as part of the Raspberry Pi educator sessions hosted in London. 

After the event, we caught up with Jacob and asked if he would contribute to our blog and share his experiences of running a fun and engaging Code Club.

Say hello to Jacob

Jacob has been running his Code Club at Penpol School in Cornwall for over three years.  He has a wealth of knowledge on running a Code Club. Let’s find out what his three tips are to running a fun and engaging club! 

Image shows teacher Jacob in his  class room
Jacob from Penpol School in Cornwall

1. Have fun! 

Have fun with it. Running a Code Club is a fantastic chance to engage with students and children in a different way, everyone has come together to have fun and explore ideas with each other. The children have chosen to attend Code Club so they are already excited about the idea — take this energy and run with it! 

2. It isn’t a lesson 

Remember, it isn’t a ‘lesson’. This isn’t like a computing lesson in school, there is no set goal, no endpoint, no ‘finished!’ moment. Instead, children are encouraged to explore projects, take them in any direction they wish and discover new ideas and issues along the way. 

These moments provide excellent learning opportunities for both the children and yourself as they are real-world issues that they have encountered and want to explore, not scenarios you have planned in advance.

Young boy working at a computer
Code Club projects in action!

3. Embrace the dancing ice creams! 

Let the children lead the way. If they want to explore a certain set of resources, let them. If they want to change a project halfway through to incorporate a set of dancing ice creams, let them. They are learning, exploring, and problem-solving — whether in a structured or unstructured way. 

Don’t be afraid to let them take the lead and follow where they want to go.

Three girls sat in a line behind computers, smiling.
Learning to code with friends

You can follow Jacob’s adventures with code on Twitter, start a conversation, and share your Code Club experiences! 

What are your tips? 

What are your tips to running a fun and engaging Code Club? Let us know by tweeting us at Code Club UK & Code Club world using the hashtag #MyCodeClub 

Code Clubs share their highlights from 2019!

With 2019 coming to a close, we asked Star Clubs in the UK and clubs around the world to share their highlights from the past year.

Young boy working at a computer with Zoe from Code Club smiling looking over his shoulder at the screen he is working on.
Zoe from Code Club visiting a club in London

From robots to outer space! 

From having code run in space with Astro Pi, to showcasing great ideas at Coolest Projects, to creating a robot named Meriden, 2019 has proved to be an awesome year! We asked Lucia Manzitti, the Head of Code Club UK and Ireland, to share her highlight of 2019: 

For me, it was visiting the fantastic Burnside Primary School in Cramlington, where Shona and Joanne have been running the Code Club for 2.5 years. It was wonderful to see the children’s eyes sparkle when they showed me their digital creations! 

As the year comes to an end, I would like to thank all of the educators and volunteers, who do an amazing job inspiring the next generation of coders and digital makers. 

To celebrate another fantastic year, we asked educators and volunteers to share a story from their Code Club. Read on to find out their highlights of 2019! 

Coding can take you anywhere (even space)!

“The enthusiasm of our young coders and energy from our growing volunteer team saw Longlevens Code Club shoot for the stars. Aisha (8) and Ruban (10) launched a joint entry into the Astro Pi: Mission Zero challenge and saw their code run in space! 

The local radio station thought it was mission impossible, but an interview with the young coders proved that coders can! It was great publicity for the club, and we saw our club numbers increase. Go Longlevens Code Club, we are so proud of you!” Longlevens Code Club, UK

Celebrating successes is important!

“A highlight would be the celebration event to mark our Code Club being awarded Star Club status.

It was an awesome way for our hard work to be recognised; it shows how well we have built a community through Code Club, not just with the kids who attend and create and have fun, but also with their parents and guardians. It’s great to see groups of adults and children working together to experiment and tinker, and they all have that sense of belonging. The celebration is probably my favourite moment of my Code Club volunteering experience so far.” Leeds Library Code Club, UK

Image of a screen with a HTML project called the website of Jimmy
The website of Jimmy! A great project from a club member at Leeds Library Code Club.

There are lots of people who love to code!

“We joined as a Growth Leader 12 months ago and have established more than 50 Code Clubs in public schools across Malaysia. 

In November, we ran a Coolest Projects event in Penang to give the children an opportunity to showcase their great ideas. Over 110 children from across Malaysia showcased 54 projects. They talked to the judges and the public about their work. One even borrowed a fridge from their hotel to complete their project after the airline didn’t let them fly with it!” Penang Science Cluster, Growth Leader for Malaysia

It’s fun learning new skills! 

“Our Code Club members have enjoyed being creative with the sound feature in Scratch. One member used the sounds section to copy and paste different sound clips together. She made a sound collage and then wanted to play it to the volunteers. We were so pleased, we gave her a certificate for creativity!” Jubilee Crescent Library Code Club, UK

“This term, we were determined to try robots using the skills we had learned from Code Club projects. We have started to create our own robot, ‘Meriden Robot’! The students have been learning to program with Python and micro:bit with support from volunteers Jon and John. So far, the children have been working on stop/start, speed variation, circling, forward, and reverse.” Meriden Code Club, UK

A photograph of the Meriden robot being held in a gentleman's hand
Meet Meriden the robot!

Creating inspiring learning environments! 

“From being involved in the community since we launched our Code Club, we have learned so much from the kids, and from being leaders. We want to continue learning, and to keep offering kids a free, fun learning environment where they can feel like they can become anything they want.” Coding Doctors Kids Club, Miami, Florida

Two female Code Club leaders smiling  in blue T-shirts.
Leaders from the Coding Doctors Kids Club

“Our Code Club has been running for three years. Children come with their own ideas, and sometimes, projects that they have already started! Our volunteers help and support them in taking those ideas further, showing them how to fix bugs, solve problems, or explore other opportunities.” Cullompton Library Code Club, UK

Hear from Code Club members! 

We asked the children at Woodland Grange Code Club, UK, what their highlights of this term have been. Some talked about enjoying the sessions:

“I like making the projects. They take a long time and are quite tricky, but in the end, you can play the games and see what you’ve achieved.”

“I have fun and have learnt a lot.”

Some talked about what they have learnt:

“I like creating variables, which I can use in my own projects.”

“Code Club has helped me to understand Scratch.” 

And some talked about projects that they have enjoyed:

“I like Rock band because it’s musical.”

A gif of the Rock band animation - featuring a female singer on a stage wearing a pink dress.
Has your club had fun with Rock band?

What has your Code Club’s highlight been this year? Share it with us on Twitter at Code Club UK or Code Club World and use the hashtag #MyCodeClub.

Innovative project inspires Brighton students to volunteer

In 2018, we launched a pilot project in Brighton with Greater Brighton Metropolitan College to recruit students as Code Club volunteers. Four students from the college worked with the City Academy Whitehawk, a local primary school, to set up and run a Code Club — a valuable, exciting, and innovative opportunity for them!

The starting point

Dan Powell, Code Club Programme Manager, and Anna Pearson, Code Club Regional Coordinator for Yorkshire and the North East, initiated the project. The starting point was to find a college that was keen to get involved.

Dan met Emma Harrington, Curriculum Manager for Creative Industries at Greater Brighton Metropolitan College, at the Brighton Science Festival. Emma was excited about the opportunity this pilot would offer her students, and so the college was found!

‘’I wanted our students to experience the breadth of opportunities within the digital careers landscape. I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity for our students to be able to work with Code Club and offer school children the chance to tap into essential IT and digital skills that the future workforce requires.”

– Emma Harrington, Curriculum Manager for Creative Industries at Greater Brighton Metropolitan College

Recruiting student volunteers

To start recruiting student volunteers to run a Code Club, Dan and Anna developed a step-by-step guide for the college. This resource provided guidance for the lecturer on volunteer recruitment and training. For the students, the resource included all the information they needed to set up and run a 12-week club.

Emma used this guide to recruit four student volunteers who would set up and run a Code Club at City Academy Whitehawk.

‘’I felt that it was important for us to recruit the ‘right’ candidates for the role of student Code Club facilitator. The application and interview process outlined in the guide allowed us to review the candidate’s suitability for the role in order to ensure that students interests and goals were matched to our outcomes.”  

– Emma Harrington, Curriculum Manager for Creative Industries at Greater Brighton Metropolitan College

Finding a primary school to collaborate with  

Emma reached out to the City Academy Whitehawk, a local primary school in Brighton, and arranged a preliminary meeting to talk through the proposed pilot idea. This meeting was followed up with the student volunteers and the primary school staff to finalise the details.

How does Code Club work at City Academy Whitehawk?

The Code Club runs weekly during term time and is attended by eight children from Years 4, 5, and 6. The student volunteers from Greater Brighton Metropolitan College are supported by members of staff from the academy.

With guidance from the student volunteers, the children are working through the Code Club Scratch projects and creating their own games and animations with code.

Student volunteer Sydney shares her experience of taking part in the programme:

“I liked working with the kids, they were enthusiastic about coding and the projects were very simple for them to follow and complete. And they were able to ask us questions when they struggled.”

– Sydney Lichauco, Brighton MET Student and Code Club volunteer

What’s next for Greater Brighton MET College?

‘’I would like to continue to develop further links by offering the school children opportunities to be involved in digital tasters here at Brighton MET College.

Every digital college should incorporate this scheme into their programme! This provides real work experience for our students, not just centred on games design, but to develop related skills relevant to the industry. It enables students to pass on technical skills, as well as to develop teaching and planning skills, and to gain further invaluable experience of teamwork. It also reinforces the core professional skills that we teach and nurture here at Brighton MET.”

– Emma Harrington, Curriculum Manager for Creative Industries at Greater Brighton Metropolitan College

If you work within a college and are interested in setting up a student-led Code Club, reach out to us at support@codeclub.org.