On a cool summer day in a room on 16th Street, a group of programmers sit at long desks moving their little fingers quickly over keyboards. Some of their feet dangle off the edges of chairs, not long enough to reach the ground. None of the coders are earning money for their time spent on the clock. In fact, they are paying for the privilege to be there. These programmers are kids, and they are spending their day learning to code at summer camp.
CodeREV Kids is the brainchild of the company’s CEO, Evan S. Boorman. Boorman, 33, formerly a teacher and tutor, prides himself on the mission of his program: to improve the coding literacy of today’s youth.
“We teach students to code and program in a project-based format. So you learn a type of programming and learn to create something that is unique,” Boorman said. “What you are seeing right now is kids who are creating their own video games from scratch. And kids love video games, but in the process they are learning a very useful skill. They are also learning the logic that is involved in programming that is transferable to many different types of learning.”
Boorman, who attendedFranklin Elementary and Lincoln Middle schools, is a huge supporter of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning and was teaching and tutoring in those categories long before the strong push in our society to get kids interested in those subjects. And the way Boorman is teaching kids these subjects is two-fold: through project-based learning and good old-fashioned fun.
With project-based learning, the students are able to program their own video games, build robots and design their own websites and apps. Boorman said the idea behind this method is that the kids will take their projects home and expand upon them and might even have a strong portfolio by the time college rolls around.
Another way Boorman has achieved his goal of reaching more and more kids is by offering a fun vehicle through which to learn, one of which is the popular computer game Minecraft.
“Motivation is such a huge element in learning,” Boorman said. “You know, if a student has a desire to learn the student is so much more likely to grasp the concepts that are trying to be taught.”
Boorman believes that the motivational element often gets lost in the teaching process. “Students are being taught math with pen and paper and they’re taught the operations but often not understanding why this matters, why I should care, how this applies to my life or how it’s going to apply to my future. But by framing it in a platform that students understand and love, they become excited about doing it, and that motivation is there. They want to solve the problems. They want to figure them out. They want to build them.”
Boorman said Minecraft just happens to provide a framework that’s good for math because it’s a 3-D block framework that works with arithmetic, algebra and geometry, and also shows how they all relate to each other. “So we actually have students build math problems and then derive the equations. It’s pretty amazing.”
One of CodeREV Kids 14 instructors, Luis Morales, teaches three to four classes a day at the summer camp, including “Mathcraft.” Morales, 26, has written some successful lead generating software programs professionally, in addition to being a long time tutor. “I’ve taught before, but the best part about teaching here is that the kids think they are playing but they are actually learning,” Morales said.
According to Boorman, coding is essential for the next generation. In Chicago, two years of coding education just became a requirement in every high school and in England students between six and 14 must go through coding instruction in at least two languages.
CodeREV Kids summer camp costs $545 per week for a full day (8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.) and $295 for half days (8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. or 1:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.). But the company offers more than just their summer camps, with monthly membership and programs provided throughout the school year.
Boorman’s company has also been partnering with schools in the area to show teachers how to teach their students coding and come in for daylong workshops with students. CodeREV Kids is also currently in an initiative with the LAtinas, a female Latina high school group, where they are instructing them on how to program their own websites to turn into a business or blog.
Apart from his own program, Boorman has high hopes for what will happen with coding in schools in the next few years. “I’d like to see more schools here in LA moving more quickly into incorporating, really incorporating coding into their regular classroom curriculum,” Boorman said. “I know the change is slow. But I can see it happening.”