Computer Science Education week (generally the second week of December) is a way for kids to both have fun, develop STEM skills and build awareness for equity in computer science education. Regardless of the time of year though, here are activities you can do to teach kids how to code! And the best part? All of them are free!
First on our list is, of course, Google. Google’s CS First program has an arsenal of activities for kids that are divided into hour-long projects (giving a nod to Hour of Code) and multi-day projects. All projects contain multiple activities and video tutorials so that kids have support long the way. Most are available in Spanish and a few are unplugged activities as well. No account is needed and extra resources are provided for teachers (including contingency plans for when technology isn’t being so techy.).
Code.org provides self-directed courses for both pre-readers and students in grades K-12. They also provide short, game-like experiences for students like learning to code by programming a Dance Party, complete with popular music. To start your own project, you need an account, but it is free. To help support teachers in teaching CS, they offer CodeBytes, a series mini-lessons, that can be accessed live or streamed via YouTube during CS week. Teachers can also create a free account to set-up a classroom environment and “assign” content to students.
PBS Code Quest
PBS Sci Girls offers Code Quest in which students work to code a robot in a scenario where they collect data from the ocean. Students can learn to code by progressing through these short mini-lessons to learn coding concepts and build their skills. No support materials are available3, but this module is user-friendly enough to not require them.
Once students have some experience in coding, they can experiment with Scratch from MIT. Scratch is slightly more advanced than the others mentioned and would be a “next step” for students who have already had some preliminary experience elsewhere. That said, Scratch offers activity tutorials that guide students through learning how to animate characters, tell stories and create games. And for those with a flaky internet connection, you can download the app (also free.)
Lane specializes in STEM curriculum design and professional development for K-12 stakeholders and enjoys making teachers’ lives easier through innovative, standards-based STEM lessons.