German Vargas described coding as “electronic Play-Doh” to the group of middle-school students.
The fun part, he told them, was that they could create anything their imaginations concocted if they used the right coding tools.
“You will be given all these different options, and from all those options you can do whatever you want to do,” said Vargas, assistant vice president for academic student engagement at the College of Coastal Georgia. “… You’re going to do this from scratch.”
Vargas then turned the lesson over to a group of College of Coastal Georgia students, who led the remainder of the coding instruction at the Big Play Center of Excellence, where Coastal Outreach Soccer runs its after-school academic programs.
The college students visited the after-school program many times this semester to teach coding through a partnership with the college’s Math and Engineering Club and Coastal Outreach Soccer.
“It’s been really fun. They’ve all responded really well,” said Julia Garner, a junior mathematics major who helped with the tutoring. “They’re all energetic and happy to learn, which is the best thing you can see out of any kind of student.”
The partnership with the college began with a conversation between Glynn County Schools administrators and Shawn Williams, the founder of Coastal Outreach Soccer.
Williams was seeking ways to create more STEM education opportunities in the community. When he asked for support, he said he received quick and eager assistance.
“We’re reinforcing what they’re learning in the classroom and taking that to another level of being able to problem solve and to engage,” he said.
Williams hopes to add robotics eduction this summer if grant funding comes through.
The students in the after-school program at the academic center also participate in the soccer program. Williams hopes that the students will learn to associate their love for soccer with the education opportunities they’re also receiving.
Coastal Outreach Soccer also added a book club for its girls this year that has been led by local female community leaders who can serve as mentors.
“Through the Women’s Sports Foundation, they sent us books to be able to engage our girls,” Williams said. “This was a national initiative for us to be able to start getting our young ladies involved in reading and also for them to see other athletes and to be able to read about the challenges that they’ve had to overcome and also the successes that they’ve had.”
The ultimate goal of Coastal Outreach Soccer, Williams said, is to help students reach graduation. The coding lessons and book club contribute to that greater purpose, he said.
“We are reinforcing that education is an important part of this program,” Williams said.
The coding lessons with the college students began with the basics and progressed to the point that the younger students were creating their own codes. Coding could open a trove of opportunities for the students, Vargas said.
“You can do so many things with coding that it’s going to be a skill that is going to be useful not only if they’re going into computer science but for any discipline that they’re going into,” he said.