In the midst of extraordinary technological advancement, coding has become a significant pillar of science. Because most students are unaware of the vast opportunities within the computer science field until high school, West Ranch senior Andres Chaidez started Code for Kids to help enrich young minds in the art of coding.
Beginning as a club branch under the organization Code Buddy in 2017, Chaidez departed to begin a new and improved club, Code for Kids, in 2019. Accurately embodying the title, Chaidez organized a way for coding enthusiasts to spread their knowledge to kids whilst emphasizing the importance of computer science exposure at an early age. Code for Kids members teach after-school classes every week at Oak Hills, Stevenson Ranch, and Pico Canyon Elementary School.
Adam Kajganic, West Ranch junior and Code for Kids member, explains, “Kids here, especially in Santa Clarita, do not get any exposure to computer science until they hit maybe sophomore year in high school at West Ranch, if they even have the ability to take a computer science class at all.”
Traditionally, elementary school students would be directed to the computer lab, but Code for Kids members plan activities in conjunction with code.org, a website platform that gives computer science access to students, to create a simple and convivial learning environment for them. Now, COVID-19 restrictions pose a serious obstacle for this club as physical interaction and teaching is essential in these coding classes.
Chaidez clarifies that, “The struggles are already there, when you are in front of the students. We have to figure out how to keep them interested and learning.” Elaborating on those struggles, he includes that because the pandemic has “put that distance across a screen, the kids no longer have their friends to talk to and ask questions with, because of the nature of Zoom.”
Some virtual struggles they’ve faced include holding the kids’ attention through the computer, interacting with them, and expected technology issues. Despite this, Chaidez with the help of his cabinet has found ways to sustain and thrive virtually. Code for Kids primarily uses web games, powerpoint presentations, and code.org to keep the kids engaged while still building their computer science foundation.
Displaying the commitment to improve their program virtually, Code for Kids secretary Matthew Chan proudly told The Paw Print, “I installed an overhead camera to give the kids a better view of my keyboard to draw everything out.” Chan also commented that “improvisations like this is what it takes right now.”
Chaidez wholesomely acknowledges that “personal connections and relationships that you make with these kids” is what makes the club so special. Code for Kids is a remarkable way for West Ranch students to give back to their community and has become a “gratifying and rewarding experience” as Kajganic and Chan put it.
Although senior members of Code for Kids are graduating, members fulfilling the roles of those leaving have many ideas to expand the club’s coding classes to other elementary schools in the Santa Clarita Valley. In addition, Code for Kids intends to widen their scope of classes and create difficulty levels to eventually teach various coding languages.
Code for Kids provides young students with the opportunity to learn about coding and gain insight into the computer science realm. They are truly making a difference in students’ lives here in Santa Clarita.
If you are interested in joining this club, make sure you are familiar with any coding language or have taken AP Computer Science Principles or AP Computer Science A. Email Andres Chaidez at [email protected] to be a part of this amazing club on campus!