How I Got Involved with Volunteering to Help Kids Learn to Code

Recently at work, I’ve been reminded how lucky I was to get interested in computer science while I was in high school. My school offered both regular and AP computer science, and I was allowed to do an independent study one semester. These were pretty great opportunities that allowed me to foster and then pursue an interest in the subject.

I know these classes are becoming more common, and I’ve been wanting to take advantage of my experience as a newly-employed developer to help today’s kids decide if pursuing computer science is something they want to do. So, I’ve been trying to get more into volunteering, particularly at the K-12 level. Here are a few resources and strategies I’ve used to get involved.

Back in September, I attended the Strangeloop conference in St. Louis. One of the keynote speakers was Simon Peyton Jones, who is heavily involved with computer science education in the United Kingdom. In his talk, Jones stresses how computer science introduces interesting and important concepts to kids, and how we as professionals can support teachers who are in charge of guiding kids through new computer science curriculum.

He really motivated me to get involved myself. I see it this way: At the university level, there are plenty of professors with industry experience to help guide students in computer science. But in elementary, middle, and high school, the teachers are much less likely to have that kind of experience, so those of us in the industry can be an invaluable resource to them.

For anyone else looking for an easy way into volunteering at the K-12 level, I would suggest Hour of Code. I had the opportunity to take part in it this last November at a local elementary school, and it was a great experience. I got to talk about my job as a developer to kids who see apps all day, but don’t usually get to see who makes them. I also got to help kindergarteners and third graders with some programming activities framed as games.

It’s really rewarding to be able to take away some of the mystery behind apps and websites by introducing kids to concepts they’ll use later in their education. I recommend finding an Hour of Code event that’s happening near you and taking part in it.

After my great experience with Hour of Code, I was excited to stay involved. I reached out to my local school district to talk about continuing to volunteer, serving as an ambassador of my office to the school district, and bringing volunteering opportunities to my coworkers.

While your experience will obviously differ from mine, I found the process of getting involved this way very easy, and it was only made better by the district’s enthusiastic response when I reached out. I’m sure if you were to do the same with a school or organization near you, they’d be happy to have you.

These are all just my own experiences, but I think they’re also a good set of options for any developer who wants to volunteer. If, like me, you’re interested in getting involved in computer science education, I hope you take the steps to go out and do it.