Code Camp

Teaching School Kids to Code

Hayley Markham

Issue 27, October 2019

How do you keep your kids entertained over the school holidays and teach them creativity and coding skills at the same time? You send them to Code Camp, of course!

While movies are full of kids being shipped off to summer camp to broaden their social skills and foster friendships, that ideal fits squarely in the '90s. While we might not be talking about campfires and singing kumbaya, this "camp" has a very modern focus.

When we heard there was a program that could teach kids to code after-school or on the school holidays, we had to know more. Any initiative to teach kids creativity, problem solving and coding in this digital age is fantastic. We reached out to Hayley Markham, the founder of Code Camp, who was more than willing to tell us more about the program.

As you will read, the program isn’t just for school kids on the holidays. The program also extends to teachers and workplaces with various courses and incursions.

Before we get into talking about Code Camp, can you tell us a little about yourself and what motivated you to found Code Camp?

As a mum of three little girls I am someone who thrives on being busy. My life is pretty hectic but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Code Camp started somewhat by accident with some kids asking my business partner if he could teach them to code. He did exactly that and then the next holidays some more kids wanted to learn and the business grew from there. It has been a wild ride. Our number one priority is to provide a safe and fun environment for every child that comes to camp. We have the most dedicated HQ team who are unbelievably passionate about making sure every child loves their experience. This isn’t your average holiday camp!

"Our number one priority is to provide a safe and fun environment for every child that comes to camp."

We imagine it would be exhausting, but it must be very rewarding to see the kids learn in this fun way. Can you briefly explain what Code Camp is about to our readers who have never heard of it?

At Code Camp, we’re all about inspiring the next generation to become creators of technology - not just consumers. We’re equipping kids with the skills they need to succeed in an increasingly digital future and we do this primarily through our school holiday camps and after-school programs.

Great! Keeping kids entertained on school holidays can be challenging, and this way, parents know their kids are learning as well. How many days do the holiday camps run for, and do you offer any other programs aside from these programs?

Our school holiday programs are definitely our flagship product, and it’s what we’re best known for. These camps run for between 2 and 4 days but the coding doesn’t stop on the last day of camp! Students get access to Code Camp World - our very own online coding platform which is packed with video tutorials to keep their minds buzzing. In addition, we also provide after-school programs at a large number of schools across Australia which the kids love.

We’re sure the kids would be itching for the bell to ring so they can get coding in the after-school activities. We notice that you have code camps for ‘Little Heroes’ aged between 5 and 6, and ‘Spark’ for ages between 7 and 12. What are the differences in experiences? What will the kids learn?

For the younger kids, we try and keep the activities super fun, hands-on and active. There’s plenty you can learn about coding without even touching a computer! We use a combination of ‘offline activities’ and iPad based learning in Little Heroes.

Spark is where kids really get to sink their teeth into their first coding project - a Super Mario style ‘platformer’ game which they build in Code Camp World. We use ‘drag & drop’ coding for this. It’s a great way of teaching the logic required to develop apps without getting bogged down in complex syntax.

Nice! Gamifying the learning activity is certainly a great way to get kids to learn. Where are the Code Camps held, and how do we find out where our nearest camp is being held?

We’re very fortunate to work with so many amazing schools right across Australia. This Spring you’ll find our school holiday programs at more than 100 locations nationwide. To find your nearest, head to our website (codecamp.com.au) and enter your postcode - booking is quick and easy!

It’s great to hear that schools are embracing this. Can you give us a guide to the costs and what this covers?

School holiday camps start from $240 for two days and kids get a free hat & t-shirt, medal, ongoing access to Code Camp World and a certificate of completion. Parents will receive personalised daily email updates from camp and once their child’s game is finished they’ll be able to play it on any iOS or Android device via the Code Camp app.

Everyone loves freebies! We’re sure the kids wear the t-shirt and medal with pride well after the camp has ended. It’s also great to see that the learning doesn’t end there. Can you tell us a little more about the ongoing access after post camp?

We give all students attending Spark or above ongoing access to Code Camp World which they can log in to post-camp to add finishing touches to their game, add new levels or features or even start a brand new project by following our video tutorials.

We’re delighted to see girls taking up coding these days. Do you have good attendance from girls?

When many people think of coding or technology as a whole, they think of men sitting in front of a dark screen with a bunch of 1s and 0s on it. Our message has always been about pushing the creative aspect of coding and it’s so refreshing to see so many young girls pursuing an interest in this area.

We are incredibly proud to say that Code Camp currently attracts a 60/40 male to female ratio. Amongst our teaching staff, women actually outnumber men which as a mother of three girls myself, is something I am proud of.

This is very encouraging. Can you give us any examples of any notable programs that kids have designed while attending the code camp?

We are always in awe of some of the creations that come out of our programs. It’s great to see kids proactively using their time at Code Camp to tackle real-world issues. We’ve had children like 10-year-old, Lamar, who created a website to help her dad quit smoking.

And more recently a 9-year-old called Sarah created a game to educate her friends on the importance of Beach Safety. We actually loved Sarah’s game so much that we decided to publish it on the App Store!

Wow! We should never underestimate these young bright minds. We have many school teachers and educators who read DIYODE and we notice you do PD & Coaching for educators. Can you tell them what they would learn and what is involved?

As you’re probably aware, coding is now a mandatory subject in many states’ curriculums. So when schools are looking for help in upskilling their staff, Code Camp feels like the first place to ask. After all, we’ve taught more than 80,000 kids to code since 2013!

We offer a couple of different packages for schools and educators to enhance their STEM offerings. One popular product is our incursion packages where we come in and run workshops for students and teachers at the same time, this is a great opportunity for teachers to see first hand how we do things at Code Camp. In addition to incursions, we offer professional development sessions where we brief educators on how to bring coding to life in their classroom in a fun and engaging way.

Code Camp World is a fantastic tool for taking kids from ‘block-based coding’ right through to JavaScript, HTML and CSS. Access to this service can be added to any of our packages.

Incursions would be a fantastic way to get in front of kids and to inspire teachers. It sounds like you cater to everything with your different packages too. We also notice you do Code Camp programs in workplaces. Please tell us a little more about that.

Corporate Code Camps have been a really interesting area for us in the last twelve months. We’ve taught kids of staff members at top companies such as , eBay, ANZ, Cisco, AGL, NAB and Westpac. It generates a real buzz around the office during the school holidays and the feedback has been just incredible.

Our largest corporate partner is actually UK-based broadcaster, Sky, where we run school holiday camps at their offices across England and Scotland catering to over 1,000 kids per year!

You’ve gone international?! That’s fantastic. You must have great support staff at your office to be able to facilitate all this?

Our HQ in Woolloomooloo, Sydney is a real melting pot of different skillsets. Obviously we have a number of competent coders who work across our development and education teams but there’s also a lot of other people involved in making the company tick.

Code Camp is all about fun, kids don’t want to be doing anything that resembles school in the holidays and we believe this ethos has to start at the top - that’s why we’ve created a working environment that champions fun. From weekly ping-pong tournaments to company sports days, we like to keep our staff entertained!

Sounds like a very fun workplace. That fun in the office obviously translates into the courses. Is there anything else that you think our readers should know about Code Camp that we haven’t discussed?

I really believe that nobody is as passionate about getting kids into coding as our staff, whether that’s our casual teachers or managers right through to our senior executives. We’re all united by the same mission.

Agreed. It does help tremendously when a team all work to the same goals and focus their efforts on the end user. Is there anything in the pipeline that our readers should keep an eye out for?

A big focus for us in 2020 will be expanding our reach into the more rural areas of Australia. We’re taking steps to make our school holiday camps and after-school programs more accessible to those living away from the big cities.

Excellent. We’re sure there’s a lot of logistics to go on behind the scenes to facilitate that. If our readers are interested in getting their child, school or workplace involved, what is the best way for them to get in contact?

My advice would be to head to our website, you’ll find plenty of information on there about everything we do. And of course, feel free to get in touch with us via email, phone or live chat - whatever the query!

Wonderful. We thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us Hayley. We are so impressed by your Code Camp and wish you all the best in the future.

For more information on Code Camp, check out their website: codecamp.com.au