Teaching Python, Scratch, and Circuitry coding to 16 young kids in Yaba– Kene Ogbuefi in partnership with SEED- The Legend News
From the ages of 11-13, I lived in and attended school in Lagos Nigeria. Although I had spent a few summer vacations there, living there for 2 years was an entirely different experience. I was staying with my aunt and she made sure that we were involved in the community. We volunteered with the Lagos Food Bank, a non-profit which distributes foods in impoverished communities. I was fortunately able to join their amazing cause and contributed in the packaging, transportation and distribution of food to many young children. I also had the opportunity to volunteer at a school in an underprivileged community where I taught math and science to young children.
After leaving Nigeria, I returned to America where I now attend a school named Portsmouth Abbey. My school has a program called the Haney Fellowship in which 5 students are given grants to further an academic interest over the summer after their junior year. When I heard about the Haney Fellowship Program, I realized that it was the perfect opportunity to put my experience to use. I decided to apply for a grant to go back to Nigeria and teach in underprivileged communities and go even further than I had before.
I wanted to share something that I was passionate about and I have been interested in robotics for as long as I can remember so I chose to teach coding. I asked my aunt for help finding a place to teach and she connected me with an organization called SEED, Sustainable Education and Enterprise Development, (www.seed.com.ng). SEED makes learning affordable for children in underprivileged communities by funding and assisting schools. They recommended I teach at one of the school’s they worked with, Drunet Angels School. They recruited 16 students to teach and provided a classroom to teach in.
It didn’t take very long for me to realize that teaching was a lot harder than I thought. Up until the last moment, I kept finding new things that I forgot to plan for. Luckily, the students were very polite and patient while I was getting a feel for the program. It started off slow but after the first few lessons everything started to run smoothly. As the lessons went on I got better at explaining concepts and more efficient with my teaching. It was as much a learning experience for me as it was for them.
The best part about teaching code is that code isn’t just information, it’s a language. In the same way words come together to form a sentence, lines of code can come together to perform a wide variety of functions. I started by teaching them one of the most basic things you can learn in Python, how to turn a light on. With only that knowledge some of them went ahead and discovered how to make it flicker in a pattern with different colors. I also taught the students how to use Scratch which is a block-based visual programming language. After showing them how to program movement to characters, they figured out how to add in new characters on their own. They all made very creative projects that were very impressive for the amount of time they had been learning.
At first I was worried they might not have had enough prior experience to learn Python as they were ages 9-13, but they far exceeded my expectations. I was surprised at how quickly they picked up everything I was teaching them. The thing that impressed me the most, though, wasn’t their intelligence, but their passion for learning. If the power went off they would squint and work on. If their pi-top computer wasn’t working they would take it apart and put it back together until it did. They were so invested in their work that it made me lose track of time and some days we stayed a full hour late.
The biggest challenge in teaching the students was that I had to learn how to handle all of them learning at different speeds. Some students would work ahead without the need for instruction, but others would need me to go over something several times. I was lucky to have help from my sister and one of my friends from when I went to school in Nigeria who was also interested in coding. All of us worked together so that we could help the students that needed it most without making the students that worked faster wait. I wouldn’t have been able to teach anywhere near as much as I did without their assistance.
On the final day, we took a break from electronics to play games in the classroom. We played Hangman using terms they had learnt and Heads Up. We also had an intense round of trivia for the last day of the program. At the end of the day we played some music and had a cake to say goodbye and congratulate the students for finishing the program. I felt sad that the program was coming to an end but that feeling was overshadowed by the pride I felt for all the students that had managed to learn so much in such a short time.
I hope all of the students I had the privilege of teaching learned as much from me as I did from them. My teaching skills have vastly improved from when I first walked into that classroom. I will never forget the 3 weeks I spent there and I hope I get the opportunity to do something like this again in the future. I am very thankful to SEED for helping me to find the school I taught at, thankful to the Haneys for giving me the means to run the program, thankful to the family and friends that helped me set up and run the program and most of all, thankful to those 16 boys for being such wonderful students. This experience has been truly amazing and will stay with me for the rest of my life.