PHOTO: Students focus on completing a coding exercise during a programming workshop coined “Code For The Holidays”, created by BridgeBuilder Education & Investments during the winter break and held at the Willis L. Miller Library.
VALDOSTA — Programming may bring to mind many things — high-tech computers, complex coding and a mysterious world of indistinct languages. Rarely does it make you think of elementary and middle school students.
DeWayne and Amanda Johnson, co-founders of BridgeBuilder Education & Investments, are on a mission to change that. The pair recently ran a workshop they called “Code For The Holidays”, which offered three, two-hour coding sessions during the winter break to attendees that ranged in age from 8 years old to 50 and over. The workshop was open to the public and held at the Willis L. Miller Public Library.
A total of 31 participants took advantage of the opportunity during the holiday season for an average of 10 students per session. The participants represented home schools as well as local public schools, such as Pine Grove Middle and Elementary, VECA, Saint John Catholic School, and Sallas Mahone Elementary.
The Code For The Holidays sessions also had five adults actively participate, which included Shailee Morales who joined her daughter Tyleah, who is a 7th grade student at Valdosta Early College Academy.
“I think it was a great beginners session to learning this type of coding. My daughter and I enjoyed it,” said Morales.
Other adults that participated were educators, parents, or guests who saw the event on the library’s event calendar.
“It’s the personal instruction that makes the difference. With a world that continues to gravitate toward digital learning and cookie-cutter education courses, we have continued taking the approach to customizing our lessons in order to capture the imagination of the youth and inspire them,” DeWayne stated.
Students used a custom block-code programming activity, that the BridgeBuilder couple created on Tynker, to program loops, conditional statements, trigger events, and implement interactive character dialog.
As a Georgia Tech graduate, DeWayne found the inspiration for developing the sessions from consistently creating activities during the school breaks for their daughter and son to learn to code.
During the workshops, attendees learned the basics of computer programming and the importance of increasing our local talent pipeline through workshops related to computer science.
“Our mission has been to empower individuals who are interested in learning to code while positioning them as tomorrow’s innovative workforce,” said Amanda Johnson, who has a Computer Science background and currently serves as the Labor, Education, & Workforce committee chair with the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce.
“We wanted to empower interested individuals in our community with the opportunity to learn to code at their convenience. Since we are in a region that needs more representation in the computer science field, we thought this was a good starting point,” added Johnson.
According to the Johnsons, a basic understanding of computational science is important in modern society and has the power to transform individuals from passive consumers of technology into active creators and producers.
“We’ve conducted coding lessons before with 8th-grade students at VECA and students at Brooks County High School, but this time we wanted to include the students in the lower grades and even adults,” Amanda said.
Benefits of coding are not confined to digital literacy. Self-confidence, problem-solving, improved behavior, and creative thinking are among a raft of other qualities associated with learning a coding language.
“If kids at a young age are given the opportunity to program and use computer coding to learn, then we have a greater potential of shifting the regional paradigm toward digital literacy for the benefit of our economic landscape,” said Johnson.
“Therefore, even if our youth do not become computer scientists later in life, at least they will be more confident and marketable in our employment spaces that have technical and computing requirements.”
BridgeBuilder Education & Investments offers a variety of education programs, as the company also manages a local chapter of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. The company’s workshops are customized by experience level and initially focus on basics while incorporating students’ interests and the school district’s priority using a project-based curriculum.
As the BridgeBuilder team continues to positively impact the local community, the Johnsons hope to increase their partnerships with local schools as their offering provides a solution to the increasingly necessary technical education-workforce pipeline.
“We are looking to partner with client schools so that every student can experience our program, no matter the school’s talent pool or student behavior, then merge relatable coding lessons that also meet numeracy and literacy standards,” Johnson says. “The approach makes for a much more impactful style for our region.”
For more details on BridgeBuilder Education & Investments programs, visit www.bridgebuilderinvestments.com or call (229) 588-0866 for a free trial session and group pricing for the program.