On July 25-28 I held my first coding camp. Six students participated in various coding activities for 2 hours each day. Over all I am extremely happy with the camp and students shared the same feelings.
All of students who participated in the camp were new to coding, with the exception of my daughter who acted as my assistant. We began the camp with a simple but effective unplugged activity "Code the Teacher" However, I asked my daughter to be the robot while I supported students.
About a week before getting the camp started I had a fantastic Google Hang Out with Michael Luetjen (@Criticalclick). Michael offered some simple but very effective tips on getting my camp started. He walked me through how to get the most out of our Program the Teacher and how it can be used to help students understand basic coding concepts. With Michael's tips in hand I was able to engage students over the first hour with program the teacher. Students really enjoyed the activity and it was tough to get them to stop.
In the second hour I used a game from ThinkFun called Robot Turtles. At first I was worried because the game is intended for kindergarten students and my students grades ranged from second to fourth grade. However, my worries were short lived because students loved the game.
We started by playing the standard game. In the standard game students used their cards to program their turtles to move around the board to capture their jewels. Here is a great tutorial I used to get me started https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olaQZ-WhtVk
To add a little competitiveness to the second round I followed the Galapagos rules from ThinkFun. The difference between the original rules is that students can now place obstacles in front of their opponents. The goal of this game is the same as the original except students have to apply a lot more strategy to win. Looking back I would have played this in teams because students can quickly become isolated by other players.
On day two we switched from coding to game design using my favorite app Bloxels. Bloxels Day turned out to be the favorite of all my students. I wrote a more detailed blog about it here.
On day three we got back into hands on coding with Sphero and Ollie. I introduced Sphero coding through an app called Tynker. Since we were using 1-1 iPads Tynker was the perfect choice for students to practice coding Sphero without using the robot itself. Students quickly mastered Tynker and were ready to work with Sphero and Ollie.
I followed a modified version of Sphero's Maze Mayhem STEM Challenge. I divided students into three groups of 2. One team worked on building the maze while the other two teams calculated Sphero/Ollie's time distance and speed. Once the maze was measured, teams worked on calculating and coding a program that would allow Sphero/Ollie to navigate the maze.
While students enjoyed working with Sphero and Ollie, we didn't spend enough time on this activity. I would have liked students to have spent more time testing their code. However, it was a great introduction to Sphero and it will pave the way for future robotic activities in their regular classes!
On the final day I introduced my students to Code.org. I chose the Minecraft Hour of Code activity because I knew my students loved Minecraft. Also, the Hour of Code activities are a great way to introduce students to basic coding concepts. After a brief overview of the coding concepts they would encounter my students began their Hour of Code journeys. I am happy to say that most students completed the Hour of Code in less than an our. I was happy to see them supporting each other with the different challenges. In the end they were pretty proud of themselves to complete all of the coding challenges!
However, our day wasn't quite over. At the end of each day my students wrote their ideas and reflections in coding journals. We used Book Creator for the journals to make it easy to post pictures, and share their journals with parents. In the final hour of our last day students finished writing their journals and spent some time decorating with colorful pages and stylish fonts.
Overall I am really happy with the way the coding camp turned out. My students had a lot of fun and I accomplished my goal of introducing coding in a fun and engaging way. My goal for future camps will be to introduce students to more advanced programs and activities. This September I am planning to take my students to the Island of Podpi!