education

Kids can code

A look into the Wayne County Public Library’s coding clubs

By LYLE T. GALLOWAY
Posted 6/16/21

HONESDALE, PA — Coding can be an interesting, yet difficult process. A sequence of functions, phrases and “if-then” statements are plugged into a computer and, through this effort, …

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education

Kids can code

A look into the Wayne County Public Library’s coding clubs

Posted

HONESDALE, PA — Coding can be an interesting, yet difficult process. A sequence of functions, phrases and “if-then” statements are plugged into a computer and, through this effort, a working computer program is made. Although the process may seem painstaking, folks at the Wayne County Public Library are making it fun and approachable for kids through their Wayne County Coding Clubs.

The club was started last year by assistant children’s librarian Jessica Kjera. Kjera handles much of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programming for the library.

“I found out about this software that we could offer our patrons. It takes all the different types of coding software that you can use and it teaches people how to use them in a very friendly, easy way,” said Kjera.

The software is known Prenda. It provides lessons, games and instructional videos about coding. It teaches a variety of programming languages like Python, JavaScript, HTML and Scratch.

In Prenda, the participants are given each lesson in the form of a mission to complete. Once each mission is completed, the players are rewarded. They are also able to customize and unlock gear for an in-game character.

Even though the club is centered around learning, you won’t find any rigid lesson plans or long lectures within the club. Kjera tries to make the experience as fun as possible for the participants. She will usually start each session with ice breakers and then move onto about 45 minutes of coding. Toward the end of the session, each student shares what they’ve been working on. It’s designed so that each student can learn at their own pace and seek out the activities that are most interesting to them. Oftentimes, the only limit is their imagination.

In the club, students have learned to code everything from short story videos to classic arcade games like “Space Invaders.”

“It’s not me standing up and teaching everybody. That’s not really how Prenda works. Prenda is just driven by the individual and their desire to figure stuff out that they want to code,” said Kjera.

Kjera remarked that one of her favorite parts about running the club was the connections she was able to make with the kids who were involved.

“Once you break that wall down and you start coding with them, and then you start talking, the shyest kid who wouldn’t really speak up when there were six people on the Zoom, they don’t want to say something, but then they’re the last one to [sign] off.”

Kjera noted that she didn’t have much coding experience before spearheading the club, but after discovering the Prenda software, she was given the opportunity to learn along with the students. According to her, the entire process was very collaborative and open. Students often help one another and give out pointers. Even the youngest members of the club have knowledge to share.

Coding seems like it’s well on its way to becoming a core skill for kids to learn like reading, writing and arithmetic. According to Bruce Johnson, web developer and instructor at Pi Crafters, there are so many other things that kids can glean from the skillset than just technical things. Skills like problem-solving, patience and logical thinking are utilized.

“It’s hard to avoid doing anything coding related. So, even if you go through a coding class and decide at the end that you don’t really enjoy it, you’ll have inadvertently picked up a whole slew of other skills that you didn’t even know you were learning,” said Johnson.

As of now, the club is on hiatus until September, but Kjera plans to hold three in-person robotics events throughout the summer on  Saturdays, June 26, July 10 and August 21. Students in the club will get to experiment with different robots like “Sphero” and “Ozobot,” a small toy robot that can detect and follow a colored path that the user programs.

For aspiring coders, Johnson says that they should always start by picking one programming language to focus on. From there, they should seek out tutorials and lessons online and follow along with them.

He also offered sage advice when it comes to having confidence in one’s abilities. He talked about his struggles in the beginning and dealing with a phenomenon known as impostor syndrome.

“It comes up so often because when you’re programming, and you look around and you see all these other people who seem to be doing it so much better than you are. You start to think ‘I shouldn’t be here; why am I even trying to learn this?’ Push through that. Say, ‘You know what? It doesn’t matter, I can learn this. I just have to find the right people. I just have to find the right resources and be optimistic.’”

It’s something that young kids and teens need to hear whether they want to go into coding or not.

Also at the library

Although the coding club won’t meet until next year, the Honesdale Public Library has tons of summer programming to keep kids of all ages entertained.

The theme of this year’s summer learning program will be “Tails and Tales,” a six-week program starting Monday, June 21. Here are some of the activities being offered:

  • For the early literacy programs (children up to age 5), some of the upcoming events include a truck petting zoo, a movie night under the stars and a story walk and s’more night. There will also be a weekly virtual storytime with classics like “The Umbrella” by Jan Brett.
  • For the elementary program (grades two and up), projects will center around the book “The Story of Dr. Dolittle” by Hugh Lofting, along with other animal-themed weekly activities. An offsite streamside education event will be held with help from Honesdale’s 4-H Program.
  • For the teen programs, many of the activities will be available online. Some of the activities include coding workshops, animal character design and recycled book crafts.

If you’re interested in any of the Honesdale Public Library’s programs, visit www.waynelibraries.org/honesdale.html. Follow them on Facebook at Wayne County PA Library, or see what their teen program has to offer on Instagram @wcplteenreaders.

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