Teaching Kids to Code at the New STEAM Center at Dynamic Wellness

*Update – Check out our new Facebook Page and Slide Show!

September 18, 2021

I am part of a team that is creating a STEAM Center for kids at the Dynamic Wellness Store and Cultural Center in Washington, DC, built on the foundation of an existing chess club, to empower under-represented youth. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math.

At our STEAM Center my colleague Vaughn Bennett teaches children to play chess and I, Debbie Berlin, introduce the children to coding.

I primarily use the Scratch coding language – a FREE online coding platform created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Scratch is visually engaging for small children (8yr+) and uses coding blocks similar to puzzle pieces. I’ve found that even children as young as 6 or 7 are able to follow examples from Scratch coding cards and re-create the code on their screen. Scratch also has an included image editor and sound editor, so the children love drawing/editing their own characters and making their own sounds to enhance the games and animations they make.

While I teach the kids to code, I continually incorporate meta concepts from math and science like the X-Y Coordinate Plane, the Visible Color Spectrum, or anything else their curiosity leads them to as they ask questions and relate to what they’re learning. Just the other day, a simple conversation about water turned into an ad-hoc chemistry mini lesson about the H20 molecule!

I also bring in a Makey Makey device to engage the kids with tactile electronics. The other day they were using Makey Makey to operate the computer keyboard with a banana (true story!).

My goal is to get the kids interested in and excited for STEAM. I wear earrings made from recycled circuit boards and a DIY LED bracelet — anything to catch their attention and foster their interest in STEAM.

This is just the beginning of the journey, and I would like to reach as many underrepresented kids as possible throughout the city (and the world!) — just last week we did a WhatsApp video chat with a children’s chess club in South Africa and the kids perked up with excitement when I mentioned Scratch coding!

Feel free to contact me with ideas, support, encouragement, resources, advice, or just a big virtual “high-five”! It takes a village – let’s do this!!

PS – I’ll be updating this page with links and photos and progress about our movement, so stay tuned!

*Update – Check out our new Facebook Page and Slide Show!