6th June 2023
A bright idea for a UK community
This Volunteers’ week Fred Hasson shares how he initially started CoderDojo Brighton in September 2013, and his experiences on approaching their 10th anniversary.
In 2012 I met Bill Liao (Co-Founder of CoderDojo) at an entrepreneurs conference in Birmingham. He talked about many things including CoderDojo and how it had taken off. I visited the club he set up in Cork, and was amazed at eighty kids so engaged in creating with code for hours.
The first event
In September 2013, Bill visited Brighton. I arranged for him to run a session at a local primary school. It was a success! Afterwards, I got Brighton University to let us use a room there every two weeks on Saturday mornings. Through people I knew in the computer games developer community, I also found some enthusiastic mentors.
Spreading the word
Building on the parents whose kids had attended that first CoderDojo Brighton session, we began spreading the word to young people and their parents in Brighton. We did this by word of mouth, attending science fairs, and holding sessions during the Brighton Festival. So many people and businesses were keen to help and sponsor us.
Since then, we’ve had just over 1,200 Ninja’s sign up and over 90 mentors.
The structure we have adopted is for me (Founder and Champion) to do the administrative work. This is so the mentors only have to turn up for the sessions that generally run from 10:00 am until 1:00pm on a Saturday morning. Although some readily come up with innovative project ideas too.
Why mentors keep coming back
Working with young people and seeing the joy they get from being able to learn recreationally, rather than sit down and be taught, is a privilege and joy. It is what keeps all our mentors, most of whom work during the week, give their skills and time so willingly. We’ve managed to create a very inclusive community including girls and neuro-diverse kids. In fact a couple of the latter have really developed their confidence and even become mentors.
One mothers experience
I’ll end with a quote one of the mothers of two of our Ninja’s shared recently: “This club has been an amazing addition to both my children’s lives. It is inclusive, educational and a lot of fun. My daughter Ava (7) loves that she can create whatever she wants, and as a parent I love that she is encouraged to learn for herself not simply by memorisation; and of course the endlessly patient mentors are always at hand if she gets stuck!
My son is autistic (age 10) and this is his favourite club. He feels listened to and can create projects in his own time with no added pressure. When he’s struggling with the day to day pressures of school, CoderDojo is what we talk about to help him feel calm and regain his confidence.
Every city should have a CoderDojo. Not just because coding is becoming increasingly important in every part of our lives, but because it teaches independence, patience and friendship and so much more”.
Thank you Fred for sharing your experiences with us, and happy 10th birthday CoderDojo Brighton! See our Starting a Dojo webpage for more information on how you can set up and run a fun, creative coding club for young people in your local area.