Coding superheroes leap into the future

It's mid-afternoon at Nanini Library and customers are enjoying this beautiful location in northwest Tucson. The computers are full, the copier hums, and children’s imaginations run wild.

Off to the side and down a short hallway, magic is happening. Kids hover around laptops enjoying the Library’s weekly Code Club.

For ages 8 and up, Code Club helps kids learn programming languages. With access to software and online coding communities, they have tools and expertise at their fingertips. For example, they use Scratch, developed by the MIT Media Lab, to create their own games, like Plants vs Zombies, I’m Sorry, and Wood Smash, and play games designed by kids throughout the world.

Today, there are six kids in attendance.

“I thought it’d be fun to come,” says Kailee, our youngest participant at age 8. “I like it very much! You can do all kinds of fun stuff like make your own Minecraft game.” Kailee’s peer, Caleb, jumps in. “Yeah, and my Minecraft game is going to be awesome and waaaaay better than the real one.”

Georgia, the Young Adult Librarian, oversees the program and has a wonderful relationship with the kids. Working with them as a group and one-on-one, she tailors the club to meet their needs and teach them valuable skills applicable across many areas of their lives: creativity, problem solving, and collaboration, among others.

Nate is the oldest of the group. He uses Prenda—the software offered at Code Club—at school, too. It’s a natural extension of learning beyond the classroom.

With Prenda’s user-friendly interface, the kids go through workouts, or tutorials, designed to take them through the basics of computer programming. As they go through the levels, they create a Coding Superhero, who they are able to adorn with special clothing and accessories as they earn them.

The kids aren’t the only Coding Superheroes. When Georgia says “I’ve got my superhero,” Kailee jumps in, “That’s because I helped you!”

The best part about Code Club is the students’ freedom to explore and think about what they want to do. “It educates and inspires,” Georgia says, “but also helps kids become critical thinkers—essential in any field in today’s workforce.”

As the weekly program ends, the kids are still at their seats. No one seems to want to leave. Kailee says, “I didn’t even know you could do that,” while Caleb replies, “I’m just going to try this and see if it works.” When it doesn’t, he turns to his friend Joshua. They scoot closer to one another, put their heads together, and begin problem solving.

With this program, the Library builds upon kids’ interests in a fun and engaging way. Free and open to all, it ensures that everyone—regardless of ethnicity, income, and gender, especially those who have been under-represented in the tech field—is given the opportunity to get an early start on building the skills they’ll need for future innovative careers.

One thing is for sure… the kids at Nanini Library’s Code Club are taking that early start and moving full steam ahead. 

Code Club is made possible thanks to a generous gift from the Pima Library Foundation! In addition to Nanini Library, Code Club is offered at Joel D. Valdez Main Library, Valencia Library, and Kirk-Bear Canyon Library. Check one out today!