A girl glances away from her laptop’s screen just long enough to see what level her friend seated next to her has made it to. Another girl dances in her seat to pop music playing out of her laptop. A boy across the table leans away from his computer, throws his arms up in the air, and shouts, “Yes! I beat the game!”
Based on their enthusiastic reactions and intense focus, you might think these kids are playing video games. But this group of 12 third through sixth graders is gathered in Arbora Court’s community room not to play games but to create them by learning to code. These young residents are participating in a Coding with Kids class sponsored by Amazon’s Future Engineer program.
In the six-week course, students are learning fundamental coding skills in hands-on classes taught by instructors from Coding with Kids, a Redmond based organization that brings coding education to schools and communities. Support from Amazon’s Future Engineer program made it possible for 12 kids at Arbora Court to participate in the onsite afterschool class for free.
Every few minutes throughout the session, a different pop song rings out from a computer as students use code to choreograph dance moves for the moose, sharks, dogs, and robots on their screens. Linus, one of the Coding with Kids instructors, explains that the students have advanced from moving their characters up and down on the screen to looping dancing moves.
“I’m making the character dance,” explains Nayele, age nine, as she adjusts blocks of code to make the dog on her screen do different steps. Across the room, eleven year-old Marcel jumps out of his chair and does the same moves as the moose on his screen, whose dance steps he coded.
These young Arbora Court residents and the staff who support them are thinking about how coding can help them do more than just advance to the next level in the dance game.
Liliana, age nine, thinks coding could help her in all kinds of careers. “If I was a teacher, I could code to help my students learn,” says Liliana, giving an example.
“I like coding because I can do all sorts of things with it,” says Ethan, age thirteen, who adds that he would take more coding classes if they were available to him in school.
“The most valuable aspect is that the class offers the students some basic coding skills and knowledge that is fun, creative, and can lead to a future career that pays well,” said Nefertari I, a Housing Stability Specialist with Wellspring Family Services, who works with families at Arbora Court.
As the class session winds down, instructors Gabe and Linus have to warn students, “Two more minutes, then it’s time to shut down your computers.” Fingers continue to fly across keyboards. Heads bob back and forth to the beat of the music. Hands waive in the air with questions for the teachers. Finally, at a couple minutes past the hour, laptop screens close and the students skip out of the room, one step closer to potential careers in computer science.