“Mommy!! I am bored!”
“Mommy!! can I watch some more videos?”
“No, this is mine!! I don’t want you to play with my car!!”
I have a 2-year old and a 5-year old who had been home since March when their day-care was temporarily closed as a precautionary measure. And since then, these were the words repeated constantly in high pitch voices in our house. The rule of “no more than 1 hour screen time each day” has turned into “lower the volume when you watch videos”.
Last night, my 5-year old was watching “Paw Patrol” from his tablet. I was typing away in Visual Studio Code next to him. He looked up and said to me, “Mommy, what are you writing?” “Writing code” I answered. I was just about to dive right back into work when I remembered…
When Charlie (my 5-year old) was about 3 years old, the day-care teacher asked all the kids in the class “what do you want to be when you grow up”. Some kids answered “I want to be a dinosaur” “I want to be a teacher”. Charlie without hesitation answered “I want to be a software engineer and draw diapers on the computer”. The “diaper” part might sound strange but it was because he had seen me reviewing a 3D model of a diaper in the virtual simulation software my team developed (from a customer in the consumer product industry). It was almost impossible to explain to a 3-year old that I don’t create diapers on the computer but instead I create software that can be used to create diapers on the computer.
Once I recalled this interesting story, I started to wonder why don’t I take advantage of this “social distancing; stranded at home with kids” period to introduce Charlie to coding?
This is where https://code.org/dance comes into play. This is one of the projects created by Code.org
Code.org® is a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by women and underrepresented youth. Our vision is that every student in every school has the opportunity to learn computer science, just like biology, chemistry or algebra. Code.org provides the leading curriculum for K-12 computer science in the largest school districts in the United States and Code.org also organizes the annual Hour of Code campaign which has engaged more than 15% of all students in the world. Code.org is supported by generous donors including Amazon, Facebook, Google, the Infosys Foundation, Microsoft, and many more.
I had the opportunities to volunteer in schools when I was working for Amazon last year. I was able to first-hand experience how engaged the kids were in using these simple drag & drop building blocks to create funny dance party animations. At the same time, they were introduced the basic constructs of programming, e.g. creating variables, control loop, etc.
“This might actually work!” I said to myself. And the result was…
Charlie was completely hooked. He was able to build a small bear & robots dance party. He even did a bit debugging when the animation didn’t work at first. I heard himself murmuring to himself “I need to change sloth to robots because I didn’t create sloth…”
An hour later, he also got a personalized “certificate” which further raised the excitement.
It was already 10 pm at night, I said to him “it’s time to go to bed”. Charlie said “I want to play more coding”. I noticed that he used “play” and I knew it is working.
If you have kids at home getting bored during this “activity restrained” summer, consider give the “hour of code” a try. They also have other projects with many different levels (from 4-year old to 21+). If you are engineers with software background, code.org also welcomes volunteers to spread the Computer Science access to all schools. See more information here: https://code.org/help