A tow-headed third grader pokes his head into a classroom in the basement of Benton Hall.
On a normal day, he might have seen college students twice his age and three times his size and heard the clack, clack, clack of fingers typing away at the computer keyboards in the room. But instead he saw other kids his size and heard their giggles echoing through the empty halls.
“You’re not late, you’re right on time,” said junior Logan Brown to the child and his mother.
Last Sunday, this basement classroom was home to Kode2Learn, a student organization that teaches third through fifth graders the basic logic behind coding and programming.
Former Miami student Nora Husani founded Kode2Learn in May 2014. Since its inception, the club expanded its roster from just Husani to 124 students regularly involved with the club.
The club has grown from serving one elementary school to serving Kramer Elementary, Bogen Elementary, Highland Elementary and Marshall Elementary as well as having a coding club in Benton Hall for children that can’t make the other sessions. The young students learn basic java and how to make points, lines and squares.
“The most important thing for our organization is the teaching aspect. The kids are the main things and the coding part comes second,” said Mike Wedzikowski, a junior and current president of Kode2Learn,. “At our core, we’re a service organization.”
On Sunday, Brown began the lesson by splitting the kids into three teams and instructing team members to “program” one member of their team to walk over to the wall. They call this game “Program Me.”
“Walk fifteen steps forward.”
“Turn 90 degrees to the right — no I mean the left!” The teams erupt into giggles when someone walks straight into a desk.
After each team successfully makes it to the wall, the ten volunteers help 12 students ranging in ages from eight to twelve to learn the basics of java via the website Tech Rocket.
“[Elementary school] is when you’re still open to a lot of things, if someone puts a line of code in front of you, you’re less likely to be scared away than if you were high school age,” said Kode2Learn member and former president and historian, Molly McConaughey.
The student volunteers in the club said they stay involved because of the difference they feel they make in a child’s life.
“At beginning of semester, we always ask the kids what they want to be when they grow up, and there were these sisters. One said ‘nurse’ and one said ‘doctor.’ At the end of the program we asked again and they both said ‘programmers,’” Brown said. “It made me feel like I did what I was supposed to do. [With Kode2Learn] it’s possible I shape the mind of a student.”
McConaughey said that everything the club does with the kids is free, so there are no barriers for students of any socioeconomic class.
“The field isn’t very diverse now, but we’re hoping that something like this can diversify the field, get more women and people of color involved,” McConaughey said.
The group hopes to not only increase the number of elementary school students who attend the club, but also the number of college-aged students who help out.
“We want to reach out to education majors [to join] because we’re actually going into schools. We want to get other majors involved,” Brown said.
Brown and Wedzikowski said the club is for anyone who likes working with kids. Little to no coding knowledge is needed to participate.
“Anyone can join. You don’t have to have a programming background to join. If you like working with kids or teaching, this is a great opportunity, this is also a great opportunity to learn code,” Wedzikowski said.