It is right around late spring when parents or guardians begin their hunt for camps and activities for their young person. “What makes a good coding camp?”. I often get asked this having taught kids camps for over 15 years. Here are my tips so you find the right camp for your young person.
That is why I do this. Period.
Over the past 15 years, I have had the privilege to work with kids between 8 and 15 years old at a coding camp and at various locations during the summer months. Yes, by the end of those weeks in the summer, I was exhausted but in a feel good kinda way.
I am always thrilled to see the smiles of my students when it was all done as we shook hands and sailed off into the rest of our summers. Kids would come up to me to grab a photo with me and tell me how they would plan on ‘coding’ for the remainder of their summer vacations.
They would be all excited having unlocked the mystery of coding and actually built something. It was a very ‘cool’ and very humbling experience.
When schools let out and summer rolls into town, camps popup everywhere. Growing up, I really don’t remember going to any camps.
All I remember is playing baseball for a few weeks and then the rest of the summer was spent riding bikes, building forts in the woods behind my house, swimming in my friends pool, and playing kick the can under the streetlight in front of my house until my parents called me inside. ….Man! I miss those days!!!
On the rainy days, we would hook up the Atari 2600, sketch out a tournament bracket and play one of the few games we had. Times have changed and camps are available at churches, schools, community centers, libraries, and local colleges. This is great way to expose a child to new and creative venues which is why I love the opportunity to teach coding as a camp.
I can’t tell you how many parents come up to me during camp week asking all sorts of questions about coding. Parents, unlock the mystery of coding here. I will be sharing my answers to these questions that may help you.
What makes a good coding camp?
- It should be fun. Remember they are kids and it is summer! Ask how the camp is structured and how the kids will be spending their time. How much time on the computer? What other activities? Ask for the instructor’s email and ask them directly. If they don’t have anything to provide or say, this may not be a well run camp. It is not the end of the world but good teachers don’t go into a learning environment without a plan. Chaos can often result and children get bored and frustrated. This may make the “drop off” when you bring your child to the camp even tougher on you! Kids know when something is not a good experience.
- Thinking and Creativity. A coding camp isn’t just about sitting at a computer for 3 or 4 hours. The camp should introduce them to concepts that introduce the process that surrounds our work in software programming. I use storyboards and simple algorithms that get them planning and thinking before jumping into coding. I also like to see them gain confidence in their ability to talk in front of other students by presenting their ideas. Ask the instructor how they will prepare them to create a software program.
- Interaction. I am huge proponent of teamwork as I have team projects in all my college level classes. Learning collaborative skills at any age is an excellent skill to develop. Now, teamwork is not mandatory but if your son or daughter is shy or introverted at school maybe they haven’t connected with many other kids or had an easy time making friends. A good camp should provide that opportunity for them to connect with other kids who have an interest in computing or technology. CHECK OUT MY LEGO CHICKEN CHALLENGE for team building!
- Challenge. I get many repeat attendees. When I identify them, I do my best to introduce something new to them. I don’t hold them back. Good instructors take that energy and experience and have the child help other children in the camp. Result, instant confidence. Ask the instructor how they handle a student who already has some kind of technology experience.
- Technology. Ok. There is a wide assortment of programming languages and technologies out there. You can’t have a kid learn them all in a few days. Heck, professionals can’t even keep up. All I have to say about this is when the camp is done, hopefully they used a tool they have access to for the rest of the summer and it isn’t just running on the computers at the camp. Languages come and go and if you talk to any programmer they will tell you, if you know one language you can learn any language.
Why not setup your own Coding Camp at Home?
What if you can’t get to a camp due to a schedule conflict?
What it if they are not available near your home?
I can help you setup a ‘coding lab’ in your own home.
If you are a parent and you are seeking new outlets for your child to learn coding contact me. I will be glad to help in any way I can.
I know not everyone needs to be a programmer but I do think we can all use these experiences to become better problem solvers. And we all know our careers are spent solving problems.
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