Coding is now as essential as math and science.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be more than one million unfilled tech jobs in just two short years. That means now more than ever, a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) education is crucial for preparing the next generation for success.
“Simply put, coding is the new language of the future and technology is disrupting every single industry in the U.S.,” says Katy Lynch, co-founder of Codeverse, an immersive coding studio with classes for kids. “Teaching children how to code is as important as teaching them English or mathematics.”
Coding teaches kids to learn problem-solving and critical-thinking skills and encourages creativity, all skills they will need no matter what they do.
And the younger that children are exposed to coding, the better.
“It is easier for children to learn how to code (just like learning a foreign language) when they are very young,” Lynch says. “Kids absorb information like a sponge. They tend to be more open to learning new things, and find it much easier to overcome their fear of making errors or mistakes.”
Tamasin Ford, founder of Power Up Tech Academy, says she believes young kids are more open to trying coding. “This is especially important for girls, who are unfortunately less likely to take a coding class the older they get.”
Not only are younger kids able to ‘think like a computer’ and understand algorithms, but they are “looking at errors as something that can be found and fixed, not a failure,” Ford says.
Coding for all
In the past few years, coding studios and kids’ coding classes have expanded rapidly in Chicago and the suburbs.
One of those is Code Play Learn. William Greenwald opened it in 2013 because he wanted more enriching STEM education for his own kids and saw the lack of choices.
“I think of coding today as biology when I was younger,” Greenwald says. “Although not everyone will become a doctor or a scientist, it’s important that everyone have a basic scientific knowledge about how the human body works. I feel the same way about coding; I don’t expect everyone to become a programmer, but I do believe that it is critical that everyone gets a fundamental understanding of how technology works and how it is built.”
In addition to specific coding studios and classes, coding is now part of the curriculum in schools across the country.
Nicole Zumpano, the instructional technology coach at Coonley Elementary School, has introduced coding to her kindergarten through fifth-grade students through Chicago Public Schools’ participation in the national CSforAll initiative to help all students learn computer science.
“Our goal at the elementary level is to expose students to coding, so that as they grow older they feel it becomes an option for them to pursue and they will already have some fundamental knowledge about it,” Zumpano says.
In addition to being involved in CSforAll, CPS has added a new graduation requirement for computer science for the graduating class of 2020.
Places to start
819 W. Eastman St., Chicago, with locations coming this year to Deerfield, Naperville and Skokie
Parents love: Codeverse teaches kids all about problem solving, computational thinking, critical thinking, independence, teamwork and collaboration. Plus, parents and kids have access to their KidScript software, where they can continue to code at home.
Kids will love: Learning how their code applies to bringing real technology to life, including lights, disco balls and robotic arms.
Oak Park and South Loop
Parents will love: The opportunity for kids to expand their learning in an atmosphere that encourages them to challenge themselves and to realize they can learn from mistakes and failure.
Kids will love: Whether it’s by using a 3-D machine to create designs and add lights or circuits or making LEGO designs come alive, kids get to create interactive and personalized activities.
2867 N. Clybourn, Chicago
Parents will love: The progressive multi-level curriculum that leads to skills in real-world coding languages, small class size and personal attention.
Kids will love: The ability to create and customize projects like video games, Minecraft mods, apps and websites. It allows them to see the world around them and understand how technology operates.