Our Thinking
An interview with two of our Code Club volunteers
17 January 2017 | Posted by Emma Waring

Our Tech Outreach programme aims to give back to our local communities by inspiring and educating young people, helping them to increase their digital skills and improve their future prospects.

One of the organisations we work with is Code Club, a nationwide network of volunteer-led after school coding clubs for children aged 9-11. Each year, many of our staff volunteer to run one of these clubs, visiting a local school of their choice one afternoon a week for 10-12 weeks, together dedicating hundreds of hours a year to this fantastic organisation.

We sat down with two recent Tech Outreach volunteers, Software Engineer Lizzy Atkinson and Software Developer Evan Cusick, to find out more about their experiences of running a Code Club.

Why did you decide to run a Code Club?

Evan: “I signed up to Code Club as I have always enjoyed volunteering with children and wanted to play my part in passing on coding skills to the next generation. Fortunately, Kainos is hugely supportive of Tech Outreach activities, especially Code Club, and allows all employees half a day a week to volunteer.”

Lizzy: “I love that Kainos encourages us to get involved in activities which help promote confidence in young peoples’ IT skills. I chose to become involved in Code Club because I remembered the lack of ICT-focused activities I had in school growing up, and I hoped that by offering a Code Club some kids could really benefit from the experience.”

Did you have any concerns before starting the course?

Lizzy: “At first, I thought about so many things that could go wrong. What if the kids knew more than me? What if I couldn’t control the classroom? But after my first Code Club lesson, I realised that I had nothing to worry about, and it was actually really fun!”

Evan: “I agree. There’s really nothing to worry about as long as you are prepared, organized and enjoy interacting with children.”

What was your experience of running a Code Club like?

Evan: “In general, the club was fun and relaxed. After a few weeks the more capable pupils were able to help and guide their fellow club members. And when a pupil was stuck, I asked them if they understood how the code was meant to work, and they were usually able to work out the problem themselves with a little prompting.”

Lizzy: “Definitely – the kids were the best thing about Code Club! Their enthusiasm was infectious, and the rate at which they picked up programming in Scratch was incredible.

Sometimes they got frustrated when they couldn’t work things out, but I found they really benefitted if I took 5 minutes to sit down beside them and walk through the problem logically and prompted them to come up with the solution themselves.

There were of course one or two prodigies who finished the worksheets well before class ended, so it was sometimes helpful to ask them to help their friends if they got stuck, as they liked to show off that they knew what to do!”

Did you enjoy it?

Evan: “I really enjoyed my time with Code Club and I would definitely recommend volunteering. You’ll be surprised by the ability and enthusiasm the kids have for programming!”

Lizzy: “Code Club has been an incredible experience, and it was really easy to get involved. I left the school each week with a massive smile on my face knowing the kids were enjoying the club, and it was so rewarding.”

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