No, Kids…You Can’t Eat a Raspberry Pi and Other Lessons from Camp

“I really thought we were going to have pie this week.” – middle school student

“I love this much more than I thought I would!” – 3rd grader

“Wait, we really get to keep this? All of this? And never give it back?” – middle school student

“Can we get one and build and learn too?” – high school student volunteer

First, I have to admit that when I expressed a desire to teach kids how to “tinker” with a raspberry pi back in January, I had no idea how this would come to be, especially when my dream was much bigger than my budget…to put one into the hands of every kid.

…especially when the vision was bigger than my skill set at the time, to feel comfortable enough to teach what I myself was still learning.

I cannot even express the many thanks that I have in my heart to everyone that made this happen, from the specialists in my department for taking on new ideas and making it work to my superintendent for throwing down the gauntlet of challenges and trusting me to make it happen…to the great folks at the Raspberry Pi foundation for bringing PiCademy USA and accepting me.

…and of course a special thanks to Microsoft for making this vision not only a reality but accessible to any of our students that wanted to learn.

It truly takes a village to provide pathways of learning for students and we would not be here, on our final day of our first week long camp…without any of these people.

Dear Marlina Hales of Microsoft, when I meet you for the first time, please be prepared for my tears and hugs…the weight of a thankful community.

Also, Karon Weber…I wish that you could have seen the face of every kid, small and big, as they created animations, games and even sounds with their Microbits!

Microsoft, y’all!! That is all.

(whispers…and we get to do it all again but BIGGER in July)

It Started With the Microbit

Every one of our students, from 3rd – 8th grade, got their own Microbit and learned to create not only the projects from the Microbit site but also how to change the code to create what they themselves wanted. As a matter of fact, some of my middle schoolers came back with tons of programs created because they went home and continued to learn.

It was important to give them a “Start” but to challenge them to learn more and see what else they could do with the Microbit, which seemed fairly simple since students in the UK have been using them for a while now. For my middle school group, this often meant trying unfamiliar coding programs, which were quite confusing for some but gratifying when their program worked. This brought on dialogue about the various coding platforms that exist…different in scope but alike in “end result”. In the end, kids got to choose and that mattered.

Some Microbit Resources (You can code and see results on screen even without a device)

Windows IOT Core or Raspian? 

We were fortunate enough to receive the Windows IOT Core Starter pack from Adafruit for all of our students, which after understanding that this meant coding via Windows 10 and Visual Studio, I made the decision to reformat all SD cards for our June camp and start kids with Raspian. In hindsight, I wish that I would not have done this for our middle schoolers because they could have certainly handled Python but at the same token, I’m also glad that I did because in a camp of first timers, the library of projects on the raspberry pi site and across the web were exactly what our kids needed. What I will do though, is provide kids with an additional SD card, running Windows IOT Core with a link to projects that they can complete based on the components in their box. This will come in handy, I’m sure for those also attending the Hackathon camp in July.

(Our July camp is going full throttle with Windows IOT Core because they are specifically tackling “internet of things”)

Kids Are Gonna Kid…and Also Be Human

In the last few days, we encountered what seems like parts “disinterest” and parts “lack of confidence”. Our grades 3-5 kids started with scratch and then migrated to the Microbit. Coding isn’t always so simple and when kids were “over it”, they wanted to go back to what they knew…consumption websites like Cool Math. In our middle school group, Minecraft Pi was the “Go to” because it was Minecraft and also because writing a program takes time and well…they are kids.

It was important for us to not only redirect but help kids navigate down a creative path of their interest…not because we wanted them to do it but because they were truly interested in learning. For our middle schoolers, it was Minecraft Pi + Python and thankfully the Raspberry Pi “Learn” page has those resources as well as countless others for kids to be more self-directed which is what we wanted.

Kids are human and “redirecting” when the task gets tough is something that we all do at times. It is important to not only know this but to also know when kids need more guidance/support to see a task through and when they need to simply do something that they actually care about because those are two entirely different things.

Looking Ahead

Our last day of camp begins shortly and my goal is to get as many resources as possible for kids to continue learning listed on the camp site. We’ll also be fine tuning quite a bit as we continue these opportunities throughout the year for all of our learners.

You haven’t lived until you experience excited kids playing the games that they’ve created or seeing their code work for the first time.

…or their colorful LEDs light up after completing their circuits.

I hope that you all get to live this…especially if you are the one creating.

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