Code Ninjas Greeley, CO
Code Ninjas teaches kids ages 5-14 how to write code by making video games. The center is run like a karate studio -- kids start out as white-belt ninjas. But rather than wear kimonos and a white belt, they are given an RFID wristband. They use this wristband to sign-in to the dojo, where they go do their work.
As kids work through each belt, the difficulty of the projects increase. Each belt builds upon the previous belt, and adds more coding. Sometimes we find that when most Ninjas get to a certain level, it becomes too difficult, or they no longer have an interest.
If the Ninjas stay with the program and make it all the way to Black Belt, they will have enough knowledge to put apps in an app store.
All ninjas work at their own pace. Some of the younger ones take longer in the white belt, while some of the older kids sail through white belt, and move up quickly. That’s all fine. Our senseis are trained to help the ninjas wherever they may be in their learning process.
And they don’t spoon-feed it to them either. It would be easy if the senseis just told the ninjas what to write in the code, but then there would be no retention. The senseis try to encourage the ninjas to see if they can fix a problem on their own. Many times, they go back to previous lessons and review what they have already covered. The clever ninjas are the ones that know how to use their resources.
This is something the community has needed for a long time. Kids are underserved in the school district when it comes to technology. We help fill that gap in a fun and entertaining way. Kids come for 1-2 hours at a time, and work on our curriculum.
One of the things that sets us apart from other online programs is that we have an in-house "sensei" to help the ninjas when they get stuck with something. Our senseis have computer experience and software design experience. But what sets them apart from others is how well they work with the kids.
Ninjas that come to our Center not only learn coding fundamentals, but they also learn problem-solving, math, and social skills. It's often that I see one ninja helping another ninja with something they might be stuck with. It's good to see these kids collaborating. It gives me hope for the future.
I'm also impressed with these kids at how well they are handling the restrictions placed on them with COVID. Kids must come wearing masks. We take their temperature at the door, and then go have them wash their hands for 20 seconds. Their workstations are all spread out 6' apart to maintain social distancing. That's probably the hardest thing for them. Masks, temperatures, and handwashing are fine, but they have trouble keeping the social distancing, because they're so into what they are doing, and what others are doing, and they want to share.
I'm sure they're looking forward to the day when we don't have to do these things. I know I am. But for the moment, they are an excellent bunch of kids, and I really enjoy working with them.
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