Potomac Code Camp, an organization formed by a group of volunteer parents, teaches kids computational thinking concepts using the popular visual programming language, Scratch. Designed and maintained by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, Scratch helps young people learn a number of critical skills relevant today, including creative thinking, systematic reasoning, collaboration, and teamwork. Students create projects, animations, and games in the Scratch development environment by piecing together simple puzzles, making the experience fun and interactive.
At Potomac Code Camp, instructors teach programming concepts using the curriculum developed by the ScratchEd community. However, prior to learning a programming language, students are first introduced to the methods and new ways of thinking that help build confidence and set them up for success. The primary objectives of Potomac Code Camp are to:
Prepare young people to be active technology creators rather than passive consumers
- Encourage students to discover and learn about computing
- Emphasize design and visual based learning
- Teach analytical and problem solving skills through scaffolding and creative activities
- Integrate programming activities into school curricula (e.g. math, science)
- Use software agile concepts to learn basic project planning and team collaboration
Potomac Code Camp emphasizes a teaching style conducive to learning, and piques the interest of students by making the classroom environment “cool.” Despite being a proven STEM gateway, learning to program is not difficult. It is an acquired skill easily learned with practice and an early start, similar to learning any other language. Parents are a key part of the process; they attend their own class which demonstrates what students will learn and receive regular emails highlighting their child’s accomplishments. The entire style of teaching is open, collaborative, and project oriented.
Potomac Code Camp is based in Montgomery County, Maryland, but now has an affiliated branch in National Harbor, Prince Georges County. With sponsorship from the Prince George’s County Office of Information Technology, Potomac Code Camp launched its first pilot at William Paca Elementary in Landover, Maryland. The class is every day for one month and ends on May 16, 2014. Based on the pilot’s success, other school locations will be considered. As part of the Scratch program, Potomac Code Camp instructors will “teach the teacher,” enabling other members of the school system to become Scratch educators or incorporate parts of the Scratch curriculum into an existing relevant class.
Potomac Code Camp and OIT teamed up to locate a school within the TNI focus area that had a great need for technology training. Sandra Longs, member of the Kentland/Palmer Park TNI Team, recommended William Paca Elementary School--which is the focus areas adopted school. This past summer William Paca was the recipient of a grant that provided the school with a state of the art computer lab as well as a brand new library with over 10,000 donated books.
“This project is a dream come true,” said Sandra Longs. "It’s amazing to have a company give to less fortunate kids who may not have been fortunate enough to take advantage of such opportunities. The kids have embraced this challenge and we are looking forward to showcasing their hard work during a technology showcase on May 17th. This project makes all the hard work we have been doing well worth all the effort.”
For more information about Potomac Code Camp, contact Sandra Longs (firstname.lastname@example.org / 301-883-5992), Raj Patel (email@example.com / 917-330-1220), Ram Mukunda (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Ms. Dorothy Clowers, Principal, at 301-925-1347. You may also visit the website.