The Kids of CITCx on What They Learned through an Interdisciplinary Approach to Coding
January 26, 2021
At the end of last year, we ran our second ever 3-day CITCx holiday camp for Code in the Community graduates. In case you missed it, CITCx provides donor-funded interdisciplinary tech scholarships to kids who’ve graduated from Code in the Community, Singapore’s biggest free programme offering coding classes to kids in Singapore from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The CITCx curriculum departs from traditional subject-based learning by synergising different disciplines – like science – with code, and linking theory to real-world applications.
For many kids, this was their first taste of an interdisciplinary approach to coding and STEM, and their first introduction to science. Here’s what they taught us about the power of opportunity and interdisciplinary tech education.
Synergising disciplines opens up possibilities for imagination, curiosity, and application.
It could be argued that trying to teach kids about two things at once encourages breadth at the expense of depth. But what we’ve seen is that widens kids’ sense of possibility, stirs up their interest, and encourages them to synergise information and connect the dots from a young age.
In this case, as kids learn to code, science concepts and their real world applications are integrated into the curriculum – something that excited kids like Kelly and David, who are both 8 years old.
“We learnt 2 things at one time! I was very excited to get to learn science,” exclaimed David. Because Science is only introduced to the mainstream school curriculum for older kids, the camp exposed them to concepts like photosynthesis and gravity, piquing their curiosity and interest in the subject through accessible entry points like videos and games.
For example, they worked on a game about space – Kelly and David’s favourite project of the camp. “I have never been to space before and I want to know what it looks like,” David said. Combining that knowledge with code, Kelly programmed a game with rockets.
Leveraging their basic coding skills, they could apply what they learned by creating projects to visualise and apply their learnings in block-based platform Scratch, connecting the dots with their own experiences and curiosities. Like Ethan, age 9, who created a garden-themed animation. “I have plants at home, and it’s pretty fun. I added an extra feature to my project so that after it grows into a rose, it starts to wither.”
Learning life skills through code is more important than learning to code.
Not every child dreams of being an engineer, and the world has no need for an entire generation of software engineers. But what every child – whether from a place or privilege or disadvantage – does need, is a set of soft skills that’ll help them thrive and navigate the complexities of the world.
Beyond code, we emphasise life skills like managing failure, teamwork and creativity that’ll enable kids to solve problems, whether in the workplace, in their personal lives, or for other people.
For example, anyone who’s tried to code will know that debugging is an inevitable part of the process, and that perseverance is a key quality that any coder who hopes for their project to see the light of day needs to have. It’s no different for our kid coders . While trying to build a game in Scratch, David had envisioned characters against a changing backdrop. There wasn’t enough time for him to make this work during class, but he’s resolute about not giving up. “I didn’t manage to solve it but I’m still trying to solve it at home!” he told us at the end of the camp.
Another who took to the challenges in class exceptionally quickly took it on himself to help his classmates out – going between tables to help his friends troubleshoot their projects. It’s not the most complicated coding projects that make us the proudest, but instances like this that make us hopeful about the kids shaping the future.
Curiosity in the classroom is just the start.
One of our favourite questions to ask kids is what they want to do with a mastery of coding. Kaelyn, age 11, wanted to make a model of the Eiffel Tower, while Luke, age 12, wanted to make a website. Moshe, also 11 years old, wants to create a material that could change shape. “I would use it to help the economy by constructing buildings and reaching high places to build tall buildings.” he told me.
Ethan, Kelly and David wanted to make more of their own games. “I also wish to make a platform game, because it’s very hard,” said David. “How in the world can you make the person stand on the platform?” he wondered aloud.
That curiosity is the perfect place to start.
As a social enterprise, our mission is to inspire kids to create a better future with code – whether that’s an entertaining game, or an engineering marvel. The reason why we exist is to equip kids with the skills and support they need to realise their potential and the potential of tech. This is a particularly pressing gap for kids from lower-income families or disadvantaged circumstances. Technology and education can be great levellers, but we have to act fast as a community to bridge the gaps before they widen, so every child has a fair shot at shaping the future in the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Back in 2020, we launched CITCx as an extension of Code in the Community to meet the need for disadvantaged kids to learn in ways that enable them to lean into the future. Companies and individuals have stepped up to the plate to lend their support to these kids, and we tell these stories so as to reach anyone with an eye on the future of work and learning, who wants to ensure that no kid gets left behind. If that’s you, we’d love for you to join our movement alongside the likes of impact-driven tech companies and individuals like Skyscanner, Google, EPAM, SAP, IMDA, GovTech, Cognizant, Micron and more. Say hello here.