A Quick Recap on Last Year
Last year was great. We put together some fun projects, including whack-a-mole and a micro:bit plant, and we had a couple of groups get further in Python than we'd ever been in previous years. Keeping track of students' progress really helped us get an idea of what concepts were being learned and also levelled the playing field in terms of giving both the louder and quieter kids a go at more advanced projects, based on what skills they'd learned rather than how loudly they expressed that they wanted to move on. By looking at UK Code Club curriculum skills matrix, students were able to have an idea of which projects to pick to get a good coverage of concepts. At the end of the year, we were quite proud of our two groups of Python kids, and how far they'd come! I bought some Python stickers from Python Gear, that supports the Talk Python To Me podcast, that also donates a portion of the money to the Python Software Foundation.
Building a Simple Python Project with Hardware
The micro:bit plant is one of those projects that lots of people build with micro:bits, in one way or another. When we looked at it last year, I drew the idea on the whiteboard for a couple of students. They had a reasonable understanding of Python basics, having completed enough projects from Code Club's Python modules 1 and 2 to get coverage of all concepts listed in the UK curriculum skills matrix. The whiteboard drawing showed how things were connected, and was intentionally limited to displaying a happy or sad face, based on the level of moisture in the soil. It was a nice surprise when one of the students 'connected the dots' and exclaimed that we could operate a pump as well - which we later set up for Kid Inventors day. For the basic idea, I quickly explained how the sensor was powered and that they would need to work out how to read the pin, that the signal of the sensor was connected to - having talked about the greater scope of Python and importing modules, they had looked up the documentation in a few minutes and worked on finding the value at which the plant should tell us it needed water. The plant ended up living in the school office for a few weeks, and we took it to Kid Inventors day at a local library, where it turned out to be a fairly popular project.
Back to 2018
Moving on to this year, we had some of these students come back as volunteers! Since the school stopped using the software we were using to track progress, I've been encouraging volunteers and teachers to be more active in 'checking in' with Code Club kids, and this has meant we have a better idea of where everyone is at, and also means we don't just talk to those that are louder, or ask for help.
A Few Changes To Our Code Club
We made the tough decision to have only offer Code Club to grades 5 and 6 this year. As there is more coding for the earlier years in the Australian school curriculum now, and we only had resources to run one session a week, and based on last year's promising projects, we opted to focus on these grade levels. It means that everyone still gets a chance, and continuity is better, and we could go much further during the year. Ideally, we'd love to end up running a few projects/workshops at once in term 4, to really show the application of Python in more real-world contexts. To facilitate this, and quell a bunch of kids getting a bit burned out on Scratch, we took the leap and started everyone on Python this year. This also required a bit more support from volunteers, but that's what we're there for, after all.