Many schools are participating in the Hour of Code this week, but #CSEdWeek lasts all week long. So how do you extend the learning at home…especially if parents don’t know how to code? San Antonio’s Youth Code Jam founding executive director, Debi Pfitzenmaier, has some ideas. “We play around with a lot of programs to teach code…and we definitely have our favorites,” she says. “The ones we like the most teach basic skills, but also make the transition from drag and drop to raw code a little easier. This is important because we need to move children from graphic interfaces to actual coding languages if we are going to prepare them for the jobs of the future.”

And there are a lot of jobs. In fact, computing occupations are the number one source of all new wages in the United States. Texas currently has 37,286 open computer science jobs with an average salary ($88,582) nearly double the average salary ($46,560) for other jobs in the state.

Here are Youth Code Jam’s top five picks for getting kids engaged in creative computing on the home front:

  1. Try some unplugged activities. You can find all kinds of great (and easy) lesson plans on code.org and csunplugged.org. For little ones, try making binary code bracelets. Teens and tweens enjoy the peanut butter algorithm game, and everyone loves the magic card trick that teaches computer error detection and correction.
  2. For middle school and high school students, create a video using Vidcode (vidcode.io). Bonus: you’ll learn a little Javascript while you’re at it.
  3. Got one who loves to play Minecraft? Check out CodeKingdoms.com for an inexpensive way to build Minecraft mods while learning Java. It costs just under $9/month (not including your Minecraft license) and comes with a free trial. Be sure to try out the slider at the bottom of the editing panel to see and play with the raw code.
  4. For girls in middle to high school, check out Google’s madewithcode.com for some great projects and inspirational videos.
  5. For upper elementary and early tweens, check out codecombat.com to start to learn some coding basics in the free version. 

During #CSEdWeek, Youth Code Jam is holding two special events: 

  • a gathering of She Code Connect™, a community of teenage girl coders. This free event will be held at St. Mary’s University on Saturday, December 10 from 10 am to noon. For more information or to register, visit youthcodejam.org/attend. Space is limited and registration is required. She Code Connect is underwritten by the 80/20 Foundation.
  • a gathering of its first cohort of TechTEAM (Teens Engaged As Mentors) Fellows. These outstanding high school students from East Central, Harlandale and Northside ISD were selected in a competitive process because of their skill and dedication to computer science. They will grow leadership and social enterprise skills by attending workshops and developing after school coding clubs in their neighborhoods. The first cohort is underwritten by the Best Buy Foundation.

In addition, Youth Code Jam was included today in an announcement by The White House as part of his #CSForAll initiative for the nonprofit’s commitment to reach San Antonio youth and inspire them to learn to code, specifically for its efforts in piloting the Fellows program and its work with Palo Alto College and the ConnectHome program at the San Antonio Housing Authority to train 70 rural high school TRIO Upward Bound students in computer science and launch them as near-peer mentors at Saturday family coding events in low-income and affordable housing communities.

The White House fact sheet can be accessed at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-and-releases .

Photo credit: Open Book Studios