What is STEM – STEM education comprises of the learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics often through an interdisciplinary approach. Among other things, students of STEM focus on strengthening their foundational computational principles, develop creative thinking – critical thinking – reasoning & analysis- problem solving skills within an safe and supported environment. STEM thinking proposed a curriculum based on the idea of educating students across the four specific disciplines comprising of — Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics — using an interdisciplinary and hands on approach. STEM education has been growing in importance over the years simple because STEM as we know it today pervades every part of our lives. Science, technology, engineering, math (in it’s applied form) is everywhere in the world around us and is being increasingly used to create, deliver digital products and services we are increasingly growing reliant on. Jobs of the future will increasingly rely on STEM skills and ensuring that our kids are conversant with not just consuming technology but also creating it enables them with a strong foundation on which to base their future careers.
What is KidzCanCode – KidzCanCode was born out of the need to consolidate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) learning resources for the (volunteer run) kids code club we run here in Melbourne, Australia. A lot of the resources we use within our development tracks come from disparate sources accessible all over the internet, some of them structured and some of them not so well structured. In addition to providing an intuitive interface to access all of the development tracks through the LMS (Learning Management System), KidzCanCode consolidates content from disparate sources at a single location serving learning needs for kids with different interests and age groups. We have found that KidzCanCode has made assigning development tracks to kids a lot easier, allowing us to track the child’s progress through their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) learning journey and also making the different development tracks/offerings easily visible/accessible to both the child and parent. To get the best out of the STEM offerings at KidzCanCode, we advocate that parents who want their kids to take up these STEM development tracks should be working with their kids as a team. Experience working with the kids/parents at the code club tells us that parents who chose to work with their kids as a team get the best outcomes for their child.
A flexible but scalable progression path – One of the other key challenges that we built KidzCanCode to address, was to provide us the tools to help lay down a flexible but scalable progression path for kids who wanted to focus on a longer term STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) learning journey. A lot of the kids at the code club have been with us for more than a 2-3+ school terms and it was important that were able to offer these kids (and their parents) a progression path that challenged them while offering both flexibility and scalabilty. Flexibilty from our point of view is the ability for kids/parents to move between various development tracks depending on the nature of challenges the child and parents wants to work on in a class e.g. A child might start out working with the BBC micro:bit introductory course, complete a few tutorials and then decide that he/she wants to give (block based) Minecraft programming a go. Scability on the other hand is defined as having the ability to offer the child (and parent) the ability to focus on development tracks with increasing levels of complexity. This capability allows us to offer the child/parent development tracks and associated tutorials with gradually increasing complexity e.g. for a child who has been working with Scratch fundamentals development track for a while and is ready to take on more complex challenges, we would scale up to advanced Scratch programming development tracks or possibly even designing interactive games using the BBC micro:bit development track which builds upon fundamentals covered off in the initial development tracks/tutorials.
The Learning Management System (LMS) at KidzCanCode offers development tracks contain a variety of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) learning resources which are structured so as to provide the kids a suitable progression path from a learning standpoint. The learning offerings and style supported at KidzCanCode allows kids of all ages the opportunity to progress through learning in a structure manner while also having the flexibility to move between learning tracks depending on their interests and intention to explore different facets of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). There’s no prizes for getting through all the content first, the value is in taking the time to experience a hands on learning journey challenging ourselves every step of the way.
What should my child’s STEM learning journey look like – Where should i start? What development tracks or programming languages should my child be working on? What tools or kits do i need to purchase to get my child going on their STEM learning journey? These are some of the most common questions we get from parents at the code club. There’s no easy answer nor is there a one size that fits all. We work with kids and their parent to craft a learning journey that is tailored to the child’s individual learning needs. The learning journey for each of the kids at the code club is a journey that they make along with their parents, it’s a team effort and something that we clarify up front when the parent signs up for the code club. Where a child starts their learning journey depends on many different variables –
- A child’s current interests i.e. game design, website design, application design, etc.
- Their age and ability to grasp various STEM related concepts i.e. block based programming, electronics fundamentals, higher text based programming languages, etc.
- A child’s interest levels and commitment
- A child’s ability to stay focused working with their parent on relevant tutorials (part of a development track)
- The child’s current level of STEM learning influenced mostly by their peers, parents, interests, etc.
What makes working with the kids at the code club such a fulfilling experience is that every child brings to the club their own interests, passion, zeal for learning and commitment to focus on challenges that they are keen to work on. For kids (most of them between 8-12) who are just starting at the code club we might consider the following learning journey –
- Introduction to coding concepts using Scratch – I and II
- Introduction to coding concepts using the BBC micro:bit – I and II
As we build the basics of our computational thinking, reasoning, analytical, problem solving, critical thinking and creative skills we will gradually move onto working with more complex development tracks which might consist of the following –
- Advanced coding concepts using Scratch – III & IV
- Advanced coding concepts using the BBC micro:bit – III & IV
- Making and Creating using the Adafruit Circuit Playground Express
- Introduction to the fundamentals of robotics
Our code club (like a few of the others I know of) is full of kids between the age group of 7-13. With the older kids (between 14-17) the focus areas can be very different and varied. The few older kids who are interested in STEM have existing interests in Python or Java programming, some of them are interested in electronics while some in website or mobile application design. With the older kids it’s mostly working on advanced STEM development tracks they are keen to dive deeper into which might include –
- Website development
- Advanced coding concepts using text based programming languages
- Fundamentals of electronics using the Raspberry Pi (Using Python or C)
- Interacting with the real world using the SenseHAT on the Raspberry Pi (Using Python or C)
- Advanced robotics using the GoPiGo3 (Using Python)
Conclusion – It’s important to keep in mind that there is no one recommend path or learning journey that works for everyone. Every child is unique, with their own interests shaped by their experiences, requiring that we work with them and more importantly their parents to craft a STEM learning journey that works best for both. It’s the challenge of constantly evolving the child’s STEM learning journey that keeps both the parent and us volunteers on our toes and it’s truly worth the effort. It’s a great opportunity to work with each of the kids, to get them to unleash their creativity, make mistakes, learn from the mistakes and build critical life skills that will hold them in good stead in the years to come.
So why wait, use the free resources at the KidzCanCode Learning Management System to get you and your child started with their STEM learning journey. Most importantly drop us an email at email@example.com with your child’s age/interests/coding experience and we’ll get working with you on creating a flexible but scalable learning path that works for both you and your child.