Dominic Myers, a senior UX developer at Arcus Global, outlines some benefits of sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm with young coders.

Despite a recent joke on The Daily Mash, I know very few developers who do not participate in some form of voluntary work. The psychological benefits associated with voluntary work are varied but include:

  • Better self-reported well-being
  • Increased life satisfaction
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Longer life
  • Reduced brain shrinking
  • Reduced depression symptoms

As well as those personal benefits, you will also help kids get to grips with something you grok already, but at a much younger age. You will also get to grips with block-based languages, which you might end up loving.

George Bernard Shaw once said:

‘He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.’

It is not clear whether Mr Shaw was expressing his own, or one of his characters, opinions. It is certainly not an opinion shared by educators nor, especially, policy makers.

I say a ‘Code Club’, but that is perhaps a too specific suggestion. Though Code Club is brilliant, there are lots of other avenues open to you if you want to help kids get to grips with the exciting world of programming. These include the Hour of Code and to name just two.

The company I work for, Arcus Global, recently introduced Volunteering at Work which encourages us to volunteer for 14 hours a year. I think that even without the Volunteering at Work scheme I would have still applied to be a volunteer at a Code Club, but it is nice to have voluntary work encouraged by your employer.

We have just finished a term of teaching 15 kids at a local school, and I was shocked at how fast it went. We start at quarter past three and, what felt like two minutes later, we were all finished and heading home. An hour had gone by in a blur with both Simon and I moving around answering questions and helping kids with their projects - taking opportunities to expand upon the points they were raising (I should explain that I volunteer along with a colleague (Hi, Simon)).

Code Club has made all of their educational resources publicly available if you would like to take a look. I welcome transparency rather than the guarding of resources, indicative of an elitist approach to knowledge. Code Club targets nine to 11-year-olds (the last two years of primary school). The projects are in four main categories and start with Scratch before moving onto HTML and CSS and Python; the final section includes projects for Raspberry Pi alone, as well as with Sense HAT and Sonic Pi.

I am a recent grandfather, and Simon is the father of a pre-schooler, so our experiences of the relevant age groups are remote and impending respectively. I find it is good to co-code and found it even better to co-teach as what one does not know, the other does.

We are thinking of mixing up the projects a little next term as we have finished all but one of the Scratch projects over the course of the last term. We are both fans of Javascript, so we are thinking of using that instead for the Python projects, especially as there is any number of JS REPLs.

That then is the simple answer to the question asked above. With all those advantages to your health and well-being, as well as to the children you will teach, there are few - if any - drawbacks to volunteering at a Code Club. Go for it!

About the author

After a long career as a nurse, Dom Myers moved into a career he thoroughly loves. You will find him wandering around the internet playing, learning, and teaching new shiny technologies.