By Rebecca Jones, Wakulla County Public Library
I have been the Youth and Children’s Services Specialist II at the Wakulla County Public Library for a little over 3 years. Part of my job has been to add programs and ensure that current programs evolve as we grow. Over the last three years, we have had some wonderful programs and seen several grow and split into other things.
Our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) program is one of those programs. We started with science experiments and cool (but cheap) building challenges. We eventually added Sphero robots to the mix, and they were a big hit. Due to the interest in them, our Kids Coding program was created.
Taking on a coding program is no small feat! The biggest problem for any library is the cost to run or start a new program. In order to start a kids coding class, it needed to cost next to nothing.
I already had robots, which was a good start, and access to our library’s computer lab, which was another piece of the puzzle! Lastly, I needed to learn how to code, because honestly I was clueless! Lucky for me I found a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through Coursera for Scratch programming. Scratch is a free program created by the MIT Media Lab that teaches block coding for beginners and kids.
With the online training and a few books, I was able to start a coding class. The class started small and required kids and parents to sign up because the computer lab only has 11 computers, making that my maximum class size. We have class once a week for five weeks. Each class is an hour long. In 5 weeks, the kids make a computer game using Scratch and learn how to program the robots to go through a maze that is taped out on the floor. The kids look forward to working with the robots, and saving them for the last two classes is a good motivator for them to learn how to code.
I am a prime example of the possibility of starting a class on something you know little to nothing about. You just need to be willing to learn, able to put in the time studying it, and be ready to have fun!