June 18, 2019

A Day at Code Naturally Summer Camp

Here’s what a day at Code Naturally Summer Camp looks like:

June 13th, 2019

It’s 8:30am, and students are starting to trickle in for the day. Their faces are full of yawns and smiles as they sit down at their computer and get started. The big question is, what will they create today? Some students get straight to work completing a project from the day before, others look to the project of the day for inspiration. “Frogger?” one student remarks, “isn’t that some old game?”. Of course, they’re right that Frogger is an older game, but we like to refer to it fondly as “Retro”. Remaking this game is a challenge designed to go along with the theme for this week of camp: “Recreating Retro Games”. Once they see two examples of different versions of Frogger, they get excited and start brainstorming how they can make their own unique version of this retro game.

As they program, they follow a framework that we provide for them. We tell them what to do, not how to do it. This distinction means that there’s room for creativity and individuality in their programs. At the end of the day, no two games will end up the same! Our students get to work adding details and conditions to their program. They showcase how much they’ve learned over the past few days through their ability to write multiple lines of code without having to ask for help. An hour passes, and they start to grow hungry. Time for a snack break! All of our students grab some fruit and a granola bar and head out to the beautiful Brook Knoll playground. The weather is on our side today, giving us some nice summery warmth that is tempered by the cool coastal breeze. They snack and play and swing until 15 minutes have passed and it’s time to dive back into their projects.

They sit down and they’re immediately off to work. We rarely have to remind them to get working on their projects because they’re so excited to finish them. As they work, they’ll inevitably run into the dreaded error message. What bug could be hiding in their code? They raise their hand, eager to get back on track and recognizing that they can ask for help whenever they need it. One of our educators, Morgan heads over to save the day. Instead of fixing it for them, she shows them what the error code is and explains what it means. Together, they sift through lines of code to fill in  a missed comma, or fix a misspelled word. Once the error is fixed, it’s business as usual as they continue tapping away at their keyboards. Every hour they code, they get a break. After the second break, we shift gears for about half an hour.

We call this time “Adventures in Science” and it’s such a fun part of the day! Today, we’re making slime! It’s amazing to us and them alike that glue, detergent, and water can be combined to make such an interesting material. They add in all kinds of different and fun elements, like color changing powder, galaxy pigments, or small plastic fruit slices. Big smiles, gooey hands, and glitter everywhere seem to signify that this project was a fun one! They’ve also built bridges, designed apps, and so much more. Students that are with us for more than one week are excited to find that every week’s projects are different!  

After their hands are washed and their slime is packed away, we shift gears back to coding. Their games are quickly evolving now, and they’re taking the time to play them in order to identify any little issue that needs to be fixed. The code session rushes by as students get ready to showcase their work. Each student lays out a comment sheet and puts up the version of Frogger they’ve been working on all day. They take some time to walk around and explore what other students have been working on. The less experienced students are wide eyed the work of our more skilled students, and are amazed at what they will be able to create one day! The students who have been coding with us for a year or two enjoy seeing the work of our new students, remembering fondly where they started from. Great feedback and encouraging compliments are shared between every student, and they all walk back to their computers with big smiles on their faces. We tie off our day with one more coding session; a chance to take the recommendations from their feedback sheets and make it a reality, or to put the finishing touches on a project they’ve worked all day on.

A day at Code Naturally Camp is full of smiles, growth, and creativity.

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