Kids learn coding to thank those working during COVID-19

Students in kinder through 5th grade create a community gratitude project

SAN ANTONIO – Although kids are spending added screen times due to virtual classes during the “Stay Home, Work Safe” order, a local charter school and nonprofit agency are teaching technology to honor community heroes.

Promesa Academy Charter School and the Texas-based technology nonprofit Youth Code Jam launched a two-week coding course for students in kinder through 5th grade. The technology lesson included a crash-course on how to use Zoom in order to interview workers on the COVID-19 frontlines.

“We figured it would be wonderful to engage kids in an opportunity to learn about the COVID-19 crisis,” Ambika Dani said. Dani is the superintendent of the charter school and one of the instructors of the coding course.

Promesa Academy Charter School and the Texas-based technology nonprofit, Youth Code Jam taught a two-week coding course for students grades K-5 to thank essential workers during COVID19. (Ambika Dani)

“I think, just like adults, (kids) are just curious and have so many questions about what’s going on. I think what’s beautiful about children is that there are no filters or nothing preventing them from asking questions that sometimes adults are scared to or embarrassed (to ask).”

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Niam Patel is a fifth-grader that took part in the school’s gratitude project.

“I guess my one question is if it will end,” Patel said.

Patel, along with his classmates, had the opportunity to ask that question to SAPD Detective Sergio Flores. It’s a question that hasn’t yet been possible to answer, but Patel says he’s happy he had the chance.

“I was happy to know that there are people that are helping us right now,” Patel said.

Students from Promesa Academy interview SAPD Detective, Sergio Flores about his duties during COVID19 as part of their community gratitude project. (Ambika Dani)

The next component in the technology assignment was to create cards of gratitude using coding.

“There's something beautiful about kids in the way that they express gratitude,” Dani said.

Like many in the class, Patel didn’t have experience coding but quickly learned with the help of Lori Price with Youth Code Jam.

“Some of (the students) picked Scratch, which is a blog based coding,” Price said. “Some of them did video editing and video storyboarding and then some of them did an actual physical card or physical product.”

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Students were able to work in groups, problem solve and troubleshoot their projects before launching the Caring for our Community website.

“It really is an opportunity for the kids and the adults to see technology as a tool,” Price said. “This time they're actually using it as a tool to create something. It is empowering. It allows them to communicate. It allows them to create. It gave them an opportunity to give out into the community to spread a message. It wasn't just about their own personal usage as a toy. It was a tool.”

The project also allowed for students across San Antonio to connect and be reminded that they’re not alone in their curiosity about the respiratory virus.

“I think we need to be graceful with children. They're learning how to use virtual environments for the first time.,” Dani said. “When it comes to the social and emotional component of that as well, we wanted to give kids the opportunity at a time when kids were so isolated to connect with each other.”

Promesa Academy and Youth Code Jam plan to launch another two-week course to allow more children to connect with the essential employees during the coronavirus pandemic through technology. To learn more about the gratitude project, visit the website here.

To learn more about Youth Code Jam and their workshops for children and adults, click here.