PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — On the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 27, children in Presque Isle learned about coding, a technology that many of them might use in future careers thanks to advances in computer science.
The Hour of Code and Winter Break Day Camp for Kidz was one of many childrens’ coding sessions held throughout the week of Dec. 26 through 29 at HardScrabble Solutions on Main Street in Presque Isle from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 4 p.m.
HardScrabble Solutions is a family-friendly coworking space that allows parents who do freelance work to have an office where they can also bring their children. Owner Lillie Lavado offers the space to community events such as classes on infant massage and sensory toys, pop-up retail sales and exhibition space for local artists in Wintergreen Art Center’s First Friday Art Walk.
Lavado, who operates UX Web and Design by Lillie Lavado, has used her expertise as a web designer to host several Family Code Night and KidzCode events since opening HardScrabble solutions in May 2017. She developed the Hour of Code camp to give children early exposure to important technologies before they enter college and careers.
“Whether they major in computer science or communication they’re going to use computers, so the only way to set these children up for success is to give them access early on. That way when they enter college they’ll already know about the technologies and can move on to more creative work,” Lavado said.
The morning’s session started with “unplugged” activities that did not involve computers and aimed to teach the children lessons about how algorithms, or directions, are present in their everyday lives. Lavado passed out worksheets with pictures to represent steps in a process, such as tying shoes, brushing teeth or planting a seed. The children had to put the steps in the right order.
Next, the children logged onto Code.org and completed “Drag and Drop Coding” activities based on what they had learned during the “unplugged” session. For the seed planting activity, they placed arrows going north, south, east or west into a larger photo so that the “child” onscreen can go through the steps of planting a seed. They played similar games for helping bees make honey and for drawing faces and objects.
All six children, including Lavado’s daughters, M[a]riam, six, and Saraphina, four, worked in pairs, with many of them taking turns to accomplish each task. Maude Drew, seven, and Mia Shaw, 10, expressed excitement toward the coding exercises, both of them peering at their computer with great interest.
“We’re trying to make a path for the bee,” Shaw said, as she watched Drew place the final arrow in the picture and complete the game.
“I like how you can program things to make them do what you want,” Drew said, when asked what she likes best about coding.
The final activity was an “unplugged” mapping project. Lavado gave the children graph paper and told them to draw maps using arrows. The children then traded maps with each other and gave directions on how to get to the destination they had picked.
Many children laughed as they often went in the wrong direction while trying to figure out the maps’ routes. The hands-on lesson showed them that any algorithm, whether for a website or game, must follow a set of rules in order to work correctly.
“I knew that Bangor’s Challenger Learning Center hosts day camps for coding during winter and summer breaks. I’m from Hartford, Connecticut, and people there host similar camps as well, so I wanted to do something with coding for the local community,” Lavado said.
Lavado already has several sessions of KidzCode planned for early 2018 for both homeschoolers and the afterschool crowd. She also hosts regular KidzJam sessions where children learn about and play music from different cultures. People who want more information can follow HardScrabble Solutions’ events on their Facebook page.