This weekend, I helped organize my first code-a-thon. Working with some awesome people from Microsoft, 75 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders spent the day either learning how to code or worked on expanding their knowledge of coding. Though the students who already knew how to code were excited to attend, it was the students that had never coded or though of themselves as “non-coders” that I wanted to encourage to come.
The day started with an peanut butter and jelly activity (well, due to allergies, it was a cream cheese and jelly activity), where students worked in groups to “program” human robots to make sandwiches. It was a good reminder to think about to write directions that a program is able to execute, and the students had fun with the mistakes.
We then moved onto to a group activity introducing everyone how to do some basic programming. Students who knew some basic coding moved quickly through the activities while the newbies worked through the steps, supported by the experts.
Then it was time to differentiate. Students signed up for different workshops on creating games, learning about hardware, and creating apps. Like at any code-a-thon, students were also welcome to work on their own ideas. In addition, students had the opportunity to try out an Oculus Rift, which was a real treat.
At the end of the day, students signed up to do a 5 minute presentation on what they created during the day. It was fabulous seeing students who had never coded before showing off their apps and other creations. I received a lot of student and parent feedback about the event, especially about newbie students who now feel confident in continuing to learn how to code.