Volunteering with Seattle CoderDojo
Volunteering quick start:
- Take a free child protection class online.
- Sign up for a volunteer ticket for an upcoming event.
- Email us to let us know you’re coming.
- Come to the event and we’ll show you how everything works.
The long version (with lots of details)
Seattle CoderDojo runs approximately 26 kids’ coding events per year on the Amazon Seattle campus. Twenty-five of these events are run on Saturday mornings in the Wainwright building in five-week “sprints.” The last event of the year is the annual Hour of Code at the Meeting Center. Our annual event calendar can be found at https://www.seattlecoderdojo.com/upcoming-events/
Our standard set-up during the year has 4 classrooms.
Classroom 1: MIT’s Scratch, a drag-and-drop coding environment for kids. https://scratch.mit.edu
Lesson plans our primary Scratch room leader has created over the past 5 years can be found at https://scratchcats.org/ – kids are usually offered a subset of these to choose from on a given day or can work on their own ideas with help from the Scratch mentors.
Classroom 3: Workshop Room 2: See description for Workshop Room 1 above.
Classroom 4: Dojo room: This is an “anything goes” space with 5 tables that can seat 6-8 people each. Usually each table is dedicated to a topic… FreeCodeCamp (free online professional certification), Code.org (beginners), Independent study, and often an “Interest Table” or two where a mentor is working on a specialized topic with a few students who are interested or piloting a workshop idea with a smaller group of kids before they take it to a workshop room.
We also have a small fleet of Linux laptops and Chromebooks that we use as loaners for kids who come to the events without a laptop to work on.
SEATTLE CODERDOJO VOLUNTEER NEEDS:
Seattle CoderDojo needs volunteers in the following categories:
Day of Events
Event Mentors & Instructors (4-6 instructors, 5-7 mentors per event): Instructors lead the Scratch room, Workshop Rooms, and interest tables in the Dojo room. Mentors work in the classrooms assisting the instructors by helping students complete their tutorials or projects. Requires 2.5 hours on the day of the event and up to 1.5 hours of prep pre-event. Event mentors may propose lessons they would like to instruct.
Event Ushers (non-technical, 1-2 per event): Event Ushers help staff the laptop checkout table and guide guests from the elevators to the correct classroom.
IT/Hardware (1-2 per event): IT/Hardware volunteers help maintain the fleet of Chromebooks and Linux laptops that we loan to students. They make sure that the machines are kept updated and work with mentors to add any needed software resources for current/upcoming workshops.
Back-office / Leadership Volunteers
These are positions that don’t necessarily have to attend the weekend events and can work their own schedule, but may have a bigger time commitment (5-10 hours a week) because of the scope of the volunteer work.
Tech Writers / Curriculum Developers: We need help building / identifying tutorials and workshops. We plan to organize bi-weekly meetings during the summer to keep all the volunteers who are interested in this on sync and then they would work independently on their selected projects.
Program Managers: There are a number of programs we’d like to start or which have been stalled because of bandwidth limits. Main ones needing people to drive them:
- “Pop-Up Dojo” program – creating a “Dojo in a box” kit of laptops and hotspots that can go out to alternate locations to run a Dojo for 15-20 kids and provide opportunities to communities that aren’t able to get to the Amazon campus on Saturday mornings. This would involve getting the kit together, then working on outreach to find and interface with groups and sites interested in a Pop-Up Dojo visit, then wrangling volunteers to staff the visit.
- Volunteer Recruitment and Retention – We need help with recruiting new volunteers, improving the application and onboarding processes, and improving communication (and showing our gratitude).
- Fundraising – We run “lean and mean,” and don’t need much money. Our expenses are mostly covered by the $10 voluntary add-ons some parents include in their ticket reservations. But with a non-profit partner who can take bigger donations for us and goals to hopefully expand the Pop-Up Dojo program, extra funds wouldn’t hurt.
- Teen Outreach – We get a lot of young kids, but we don’t seem to get many teens. We have some ideas why, but we’d love someone who would like to take on analyzing this and working on initiatives to get more teens interested and make Dojo a rewarding experience for them.
If you would like to take on one of these, contact us.
Not every kid can come to every workshop session. Some get sick, some have family come visit, some are only with the parent who takes them to Dojo on alternating weekends. When we build workshops, we try to make sure there are materials online (either free tutorials we’re using from 3rd parties or tutorials we’ve built in our GitHub repo) that can be accessed by kids who missed a session so they can get caught up for the next session.
When you have a room with 30 kids on 20 different models of computer, running different versions of 4 different operating systems (Windows, Linux, MacOS, ChromeOS), standardizing the interfaces they’ll be working with is both challenging and necessary. We most often try to work with web-based interfaces, using the browser as the great equalizer.
Why web-based? Some of the kids are on our loaners or on their parent’s work laptop, and cannot reliably install software. Even when we have lifted the rule and done a workshop requiring installs, like Minecraft modding, the first workshop is spent debugging the installs on everyone’s machines. If there must be an install, it must be because the topic just couldn’t be taught without one.
When we think about how we teach, putting the kids on the tools we use as professional developers may not be possible just because only some of the kids can run Visual Studio Community Edition or IntelliJ. Sometimes we have to find something good that everyone can access rather than use something better that would exclude kids or spend the whole first week on install debugging.
What we’re really trying to teach
Our audience isn’t university CS majors who will enter the workforce in a couple of years. These are kids who are mostly 4-9 years away from entering university. By the time they hit the workforce, any “industry tools” we teach them will likely be out of date.
Our goal is to instill basic technical concepts and self-confidence in their ability to learn and master technical topics. Many of these children may not go on to become professional developers. They may go on to be doctors, lawyers, project managers, even astronauts. But when they need to learn a complex system or solve a complex problem, we want them to be able to think back to their time with us, remember their successes, and think “yeah, I can do this.”
If you create a learning experience or are evaluating a free online tool/tutorial to recommend, keeping in mind what ages it’s appropriate for is VERY useful. We need to be able to make accurate recommendations. Putting a 3rd grader on a high-school level tutorial/course can be a recipe for a frustrated and discouraged child.