Vectorform mentored nearly 600, K-5 students in 30 sessions over a four-day period onsite at Pierce Elementary School in Birmingham, MI.

Hour of Code youth workshops have reached more than 100 million learners across 180 countries to date. At Hour of Code workshops, students take steps toward building the next big thing, not just using it. In 2015, approximately 30 second-grade students at Pierce Elementary School in Birmingham, Michigan completed the Hour of Code with me. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised by the positive effect such a small commitment of time can have on everyone involved, including me.

The Principal at Pierce Elementary, James Lalik, and Media Specialist, DaNita Bell, enabled me and other Vectorform engineers to expand the Hour of Code workshops to the entire school, mentoring nearly 600 students in 2016! We participated in almost 30 sessions over a four-day period onsite, with our 20 mentors working alongside the inspiring staff at Pierce. Sessions were completed for all students in grades K-5 (yes we did this with Kindergarteners and it was awesome). Younger students used Kodable and older students worked in Minecraft Designer.

After our first day together, I sent out a message to the mentors with a list of lessons learned. The first piece of feedback – kids are smarter than you think. During our first session we had some fifth-graders asking to switch to Javascript! On our second day, we saw Kindergarteners using conditionals (e.g. if we hit a red block then turn left) and loops (e.g. turn left and go up 5 times). There were first-graders using functions – it was amazing! It does not come easily to everyone and for every time you heard someone say, “this is too easy”, there’d be someone else saying, “this is too hard.” However, and this was the most rewarding part for all of us; knowing we could make a difference and mentor today’s youth on a subject we are so passionate about.

It was a learning experience for all parties involved. We learned it can be difficult to help guide someone towards a solution in an explorative way without forcing them to come up with your solution. Either way, the result was rewarding and we achieved our goal each time we heard a student say “that was fun” or “I want to do this at home!”

The most rewarding part for all of us was knowing we could make a difference and mentor today’s youth on a subject we are so passionate about.

In between sessions we would talk about the first time we were all exposed to code. For some of us that was recreating Pokémon battles on a graphing calculator. For others, it was C++ classes in high school or college. There certainly weren’t any of us who experienced anything like this when we were five years old. Would I have ended up in the same industry if I had done something similar as a child? Probably, but if this was going to become my life passion no matter what, I would have appreciated being introduced to code in an accessible and fun way earlier on.

Hour of Code aims to cover more ground than just giving those destined for software development early access. It is no secret that our industry lacks diversity. For some reason or another, thousands of people who could potentially be brilliant coders are not even giving it a chance. We hope we inspired someone who was not likely to pursue this path, to do so. Maybe 20 years from now a student from this class will be writing a similar note about when they were introduced to code as a five year old.

For some reason or another, thousands of people who could potentially be brilliant coders are not even giving it a chance. We hope we inspired someone who was not likely to pursue this path, to do so.

Of course, 20 years from now, technology will have found its place in every aspect of our lives (if it hasn’t already). Knowing how things work or how to make things work for you will be an invaluable skill. Millennials grew up in a strange transition period where we got to watch the internet and technology take over. The older Millennials might even know how a car works. Now even cars are pieces of technology. Kids today are coming into a world where all records of human knowledge are just a few clicks away, and I can’t wait to see what the next generation of coders creates.

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