Volunteering with Seattle CoderDojo
It is our common goal and shared sense of purpose that power Seattle CoderDojo. We help kids learn STEAM skills that will help them in life, whether they become professional software developers or not.
FIRST RULE: I Will beats You Should every time
When you say “you should,” you’re giving someone else homework. If you want something done, volunteer to do it. That’s how an organization where NOBODY gets paid works. We can ask volunteers to do things, but if they don’t want to, what are we going to do? Pay them less than nothing?
If you suggest something, it goes in the to-do backlog until someone decides they want to do it. If you offer to do it, we’ll likely say “please” and “thank you.”
SETTING EXPECTATIONS: WE’LL START SMALL
Back in 2020, Amazon was providing 4 classrooms and we were trying to satisfy a number of interests and skill levels for as many as 80-100 kids. We’d get 250-300 at the Hour of Code. It took a few years to build up to that.
In the beginning, we’ll focus on simply getting back into a rhythm of holding meetups, starting smaller and then expanding as resources and volunteers allow. Let’s not pull a muscle because we didn’t warm up first.
THE FOUR THINGS WE NEED TO DO
1: Find a place/places that will host us.
We need help finding interested parties with the seating and WiFi to host a meetup, for example a corporate office or meeting space, a church, a library, or a YMCA or Boys & Girls Club. As we’re starting small again, we need table space for 15 kids and milling about space for parents.
We are not against meeting on campus at Microsoft, Amazon, Google, etc. but we currently don’t have a sponsor at any who will reserve space, cover the costs of security and janitorial, and help us ensure we have an employee as our official chaperone during a meetup.
We are not against meeting at a school, but the event has to be open to kids who don’t go there, which can be a sticking point.
2: Pick what we’ll teach.
See our Dojo Guides repository…
We’ll try to adapt other free materials to our Dojo Guides format, just for classification and level setting for achievement stickers/stamps (not to claim ownership or authorship).
Good sources of free workshops we can use:
Prior to calling off the first meetup of 2020, we’d created new ID badges for the kids, parents, and volunteers with a hexagonal grid they could fill up with achievement stickers, trying to gamify attendance and achievements (both technical like finishing a learning unit, and personal like asking a question in class). There are also stickers for volunteers and parents. We should try to use the stickers, though we’ll need to define how to earn them.
Our three badges. Seeker for kids (with a couple of our stickers on it), Mentor for volunteers, and Guardian for the family members who take the time to bring and stay with their kids. These are 4×6 cards for which we provide a plastic case and lanyard. Names go in the rounded rectangle at the top.
- STEM Achievements (we currently have): HTML levels 1-3, Scratch levels 1-3, Unity levels 1-3, VR/AR levels 1-3
- Personal Achievements (we currently have): 1st visit, 4th visit, 7th visit, “Asked a Question,” “Helped Someone”
- Additional options: 1×1 self-inking stamp
- Any projects/curriculum in need of a new sticker (or stamp) will need to be designed and ordered a few weeks before.
- Costs run from 25-65 dollars depending on factors.
Since we’ll be starting small, we’ll need to base the choice(s) on the space we have and the volunteers we have. Please note that we prefer building a classroom session off of an open-source or Creative Commons licensed online tutorial rather than building bespoke tutorials. Do not underestimate the effort of turning a cool blog post you saw or an open source library into a classroom session or sequence of sessions.
CoderDojo offers a number of free tutorials we can use.
Important consideration: There will always be kids who do not have a laptop to use during sessions for a variety of reasons. We should only require software installation as part of a curriculum/project if we can have that software installed on 4-6 of our own machines (chromebooks or Intel laptops) to loan out. Web-based curriculum and cloud-based IDEs/REPLs where the student just needs a browser are super useful.
3: Update our website.
The site, available at SeaCD.com (or seattlecoderdojo.com) is currently built with WordPress on a simple shared hosting provider. The design, information, SEO, and tech are all a bit out of date. We can do better.
The redesign should focus on three primary goals:
- Make it easy to understand what we do and who we’re trying to serve.
- Make it easy for families and volunteers to find upcoming events, sign up for them, and prep for their visit.
- Provide links to educational materials we’ve created, used, and/or recommend.
How we did that in the past has NO bearing on the future. Everything is on the table so long as it will be free or cheap.
4: Get the word out.
Once we have a host and a date, we start promoting it… social media, mailing lists, grabbing 20 seconds at the beginning of a tech community meetup to announce, submitting to Parent Map and other newspaper/magazine event calendars, posters at/near the location of the event, etc.