Starting a Coding Club at Your Library (5)

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Greetings and welcome to another installment of CodeDak, the State Library’s monthly column on running coding clubs in libraries! This episode is unflaggingly focused on one topic: lesson plans. If you’re offering a weekly, bi-weekly, or even a daily program, things will run smoother with some field-tested plans to work from. Even if you have no advance knowledge of this whole “computer science” thing, you can turn to these to guide you through. Below are links several sets of curricula and some brief explanations of what you can expect at each site. Enjoy!

Code Club: Code Club has full curricula for six different coding languages (Scratch, which may be best for beginners; HTML & CSS; Python; and three hardware-specific sets of curricula for working with Raspberry Pi, Sense HAT, and Sonic Pi). Each curriculum has six projects, which introduce concepts and complexity as they progress. For Scratch, HTML & CSS, and Python, there are multiple sets of 6 project arcs—six for scratch and two each for the others. As an added boon, these are all available in 28 different languages, which can be a great help when working with new Americans: https://codeclubprojects.org/en-GB/

Code.org: You may already be familiar with Code.org through the Hour of Code, but they also have comprehensive lesson plans presented alongside supplementary materials for teaching coding concepts to any grade level, from K-12. Have pre-readers? No problem. Advanced kids? Code.org has you covered. Simply start out by selecting Elementary, Middle, or High School under “Full course catalog” and you’ll be guided along to everything you need. If that’s a bit overwhelming and you’d like to take a more stripped down approach, simply go the “Express” route,” which comes in two flavors: Pre-reader and CS Fundamentals: https://studio.code.org/courses?view=teacher

CS-First: In addition to two hour-long sample activities, CS-First has 9 themed courses, each consisting of 8 activities. There are lesson plans, materials, and videos for each activity to help you help the kids learn coding. The themes are broad, but targeted to appeal to a variety of audiences; some examples are Storytelling, Fashion & Design, Art, Social Media, Sports, Music & Sound, and Game Design. Their courses are in the Scratch language, so they’re accessible to all ages. Note: these full lesson plans are available without registering, but you can also sign up to officially “Start a Club.” Doing so requires a Google account, but when you do, you’ll also get free printed materials, the ability to track student projects, and open up the ability for your students to share “pride pages” of their accomplishments with their friends. Get started here: https://www.cs-first.com/materials

Hello Ruby: Looking for lessons plans to teach computational thinking without using computers? Check out what Hello Ruby has to offer. They don’t have a lot of lessons and what they have isn’t nearly as robust as offerings from the others on this list, but they provide an alternative to screen time (or something to do when the Internet goes flooey). Explore them at: http://www.helloruby.com/educators

Pencil Code: Pencil Code is a beginner friendly code-instruction platform utilizing CoffeeScript (JavaScript, only easier). They have a full teachers’ manual replete with lesson plans, background information, a pacing guide, examples, and coding standards (note: don’t get too excited—this isn’t a delineation of how the lessons map to common core or some such; rather it’s more of a Strunk and White style guide on how code should be written). The manual is at: https://manual.pencilcode.net/

ScratchEd Creative Computing: Here be 154 pages of plans, activities, and strategies for teaching computational thinking and computer programming based around Scratch. Currently available in English, Spanish, Korean, French, Chinese, Dutch, Basque, Romanian, and Russian. A workbook with student activity pages and reflection questions is also available: http://scratched.gse.harvard.edu/guide/download.html

Thimble: While Thimble hosts tons of fun coding projects, their lesson plans actually form a Web Literacy Curriculum which teaches things like online privacy alongside web design. This is honestly quite brilliant, even though most of the lessons aren’t directly related to coding. See for yourself at: https://learning.mozilla.org/en-US/activities

 

That about does it for traditional lesson plans. However, the time may come when you need auxiliary self-guided material, the occasional one-off, or a place to steer precocious programmers who prodigiously plow through your plans without pause. When such eventualities transpire, I’d direct to the following resources…

Kano: Kano is probably best known for their affordable build-your-own hardware kits (which are awesome), but they also have a really fun and powerful coding environment with tons free self-paced lessons. The visual style is probably geared towards a younger audience, but I also quite enjoy it and believe it or not, I’m full-grown. Set the kids free at: https://world.kano.me/projects

Made w/ Code: This sight is squarely focused on addressing the gender gap in computer science, and features numerous projects rooted in fashion, dance, gardening, and other topics designed to appeal to girls of all ages. Don’t hesitate to guide anyone who may be interested here: https://www.madewithcode.com/home/

Codecademy: One of the earliest, best developed, and most inclusive sets of free online coding classes, Codecademy is hard to top in terms of raw scope. It currently hosts 35 solid hours of JavaScript lessons alone, and also features courses in Python, Ruby on Rails, responsive design, ReactJS, AngularJS, SQL, and even the flipping Watson API. Yowzers! It was designed for adult learners, but would serve your young geniuses handsomely. Note there are also paid courses available through Codecademy, but there’s something like 127 hours of free lessons there now and they’re constantly expanding, so dropping coin is far from necessary. This one does require signing up for a free account to get underway, however: https://www.codecademy.com/learn/all

Wolfram Programming Lab: While Wolfram proper is only available through a monthly subscription, they have numerous really compelling and informative free lessons. It notably employs the Wolfram Language, which was designed for powerful mathematical and scientific applications. Don’t be frightened, though, it’s surprisingly user-friendly and a full-fledged calculus skillset is not required. If you have some mathy kids, they’ll go gaga for this: https://lab.open.wolframcloud.com/app/

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