In the spring of 2016 Melon opened its HQ in Sofia to host Danish IT-creative workshops for kids – Coding Pirates. Every Sunday a group of volunteers – gathered together in our kitchen to teach kids how to make ideas come to life using technology.
Coding Pirates teaches kids that technologies are not that hard once they get to know them. They can be easy and fun, and actually help them take a problem down or create their own project.
Volunteers, parents and kids loved the first season of Coding Pirates Bulgaria. So here comes the new one – beginning on October 2.
How does it work?
The kids nibble on one technology for four weeks. There are 3 branches they can choose from – software development, visual design and engineering. At the end of the fourth week they have an actual product to show. This could be a hero for a game, an actual computer game, or a Lego robot programmed to do certain things.
As soon as the kids choose what branch they’d like to dive in, they are divided into three groups. A dedicated team of volunteers work with them. Sometimes the workshops begin with short presentations what the kids can achieve with the chosen technologies. Also, they may need the very basics to start using them. Then each kid works on their own ideas and projects.
“We began with 8 volunteers and 15 kids,” says Plamena Todorova, Coordinator of Coding Pirates Bulgaria. “Only a couple of weeks later we had doubled the number of kids and tripled the number of volunteers. And today we have a waiting list.” Because of the huge interest, Coding Pirates is negotiating a second and third premises in Sofia – in Druzhba and Iztok, and a location in Varna.
What’s special about it?
The volunteers are here only to facilitate kids’ work. They provide them with guidelines and knowledge when needed, but never demand from them to do this or that. They support and motivate them, encourage them to use their imagination and to create whatever they feel like. It may be exploding sheep or anything else that crosses their mind.
There’s no such thing as: the task is to… and you have to… No. The volunteers are talking a lot to each and every kid about what they like – what kind of games, heroes, cartoons and many more. Naturally, the little pirates get inspired and decide to turn into reality whichever figment of their imagination. The kids come up with their own projects and the volunteers just guide them how to bring them to life using technology.
Who can be a volunteer?
The volunteers are people who like working with kids and believe into transferring their love for technology to kids. Of course, they have to be willing to invest those 2 hours every Sunday. Other than that, no specific technological skillset is required.
“The kids need a lot of patience and individual approach,” Plamena says. “There’s no algorithm. The key is talking to each and every one of them, asking a tons of questions, trying different approaches. They will open up and tell you themselves. Then you have to follow them. Some need more encouragement, others approval or validation of their ideas or else. And their ideas are never stupid. We just say – let’s try and see what happens. The kids need to unwind their imagination.”
In the spring, the kids worked mainly with a drag-and-drop platform called Scratch. It’s puzzle like and uses a lot of colors. Every kid that enters the Pirate waters for the first time starts with Scratch so that they can get adept with the logic of developing a software product. The next thing kids tried was Unity – another game development platform, and finally – 3ds Max, used for modeling and animation.
You can make an enquiry to enroll your kid, if they are 7+ years old, or join as a volunteer at firstname.lastname@example.org.