JavaScript Bootcamp for Schoolchildren

April 26, 2017 8:30 PM

You’re probably wondering why 8 year olds are learning JavaScript. At least that’s what I would have thought after seeing that picture. Last month, I thought about how I began programming back in 9th grade, learning about variables and loops for the first time. There were at least 10 other students just as confused as I was when we first learned these new concepts. But I was a freshman in high school and apparently, I was expected to know basic programming before I took that Java class. It struck me like lightning! Was I really behind? It was just a matter of time before I spent the next 3 years of my life becoming a developer and going to programming competitions and hackathons to win cool prizes and meet new people!

Everyday, I see elementary and middle schoolers playing a variety of sports like basketball, soccer, baseball, etc. To my surprise, even 5 year old children were already learning to swim on their own! Then it occurred to me that programming is no different from a sport, one that developers must train for by starting early, gaining experience, and learning new things everyday. This motivated me to organize my first Beginner JavaScript Bootcamp for young children across my neighborhood. What’s better than spending 2 hours with a bunch of young children everyday of your spring break? Within the next 2 days, I quickly developed an informational site at http://sriharshaguduguntla.com/jsbootcamp/ and contacted various families within our community as well as family friends who were surprised to see that I was offering programming classes for these young children. The response was overwhelming and I was really excited to be taking these kids into the magical world of Computer Science. The classes began on March 4th, as I prepared slides and material to teach throughout the week.

Having only been a student in the past, this was my first time experiencing what it is like to be a teacher. To my surprise, Day 1 was tough! Concepts that I had been hoping to cover in 30 minutes ended up taking 1.5 hours instead, and we had gone way off schedule. I tried not to panic as I asked my parents for help. I realized that the curriculum I had chosen was too advanced for young beginners, and I immediately worked on simplifying the material to cover the most important concepts only. This was not easy since I was forced to remove some very interesting topics, and I was initially disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to teach them everything I learned in my first programming class. But this didn’t stop me from making theses classes as fun and interesting as possible!

Each day, I devoted a few minutes to reviewing old concepts and engaging the students by asking them to join a group discussion on a particular topic. Then, I began going through the slides and teaching new concepts for about an hour. This was definitely the hardest part about the class because many of the children were easily distracted, and it took me quite a while to learn how to grab their attention. Moreover, I could see that many of them were confused at times, but didn’t bother to raise their hands and ask questions. This bothered me because I didn’t want students to come out of the class confused about what they just learned. To avoid these situations, I tried my best to repeat important concepts and topics multiple times until I was sure that everyone understood what I said. In the last 30 minutes of class, I had them do hands-on work using what I had just taught them, however, this proved to be much harder than I had anticipated. A lot of the children were inexperienced with using a computer instead of an iPad or another tablet, and I was astonished to hear that this was an issue. Personally, I had learned to use a computer at a young age, so I never faced the issues that these students were facing. Therefore, this was yet another challenge I had to face while teaching the bootcamp. I called a friend for help and he came to a few classes to mentor the children during individual work time, and I felt that they were finally making some progress.

By the end of the 8 classes, I had covered basic programming skills from variables, loops, and conditional statements to data structures, functions, and programming design. All the proceedings from the bootcamp are being donated to charity. It was definitely an eye-opening experience teaching these young aspiring developers and it was also a great way for me to spend time and learn how the modern generation perceives programming. I also realized that being a teacher is harder than it seems and it made me think about every time that one of my own teachers enforced a certain rule or tried to teach something important. From the beginning, my ultimate goal had been to spark interest in at least a few students to take what they learned to move on to the next level and become developers even before their first programming class in high school. By the end, I felt that I had accomplished this goal and I’m very thankful for this awesome opportunity. I hope that my teaching endeavors don’t end here and I look forward to meeting more budding developers in the future to spread my knowledge and enlighten them with the world of programming.