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Empowering Youth to Shape their World Through Code

CoderDojo Halifax

Original story shared in the Spring 2015 edition of CS Magazine.

For Joe Bassil (BCSc‘03), teaching his three sons how to code has been on his radar since his oldest was born seven years ago.

Dal alumni take action

In January 2015, Bassil and three other Dalhousie alumni – Ian Bezanson (BCSc’04), Patrick LaRoche (MCSc’06), and Jonathan Amyotte (BCSc‘05) – launched the Halifax chapter of the global CoderDojo.

CoderDojo is a global movement of free, volunteer-led, community-based programming clubs for young people between the ages of 7 and 17. Within this movement, the focus is on community, peer learning, youth mentoring and self-led learning – with an emphasis on showing how coding is a force for change in the world.

Filling an educational void

“The provincial audit on our education system late last year was the catalyst that set the idea in motion,” Bassil explains. “The report cited a lack of curriculum to support critical thinking and programming at a young age – concepts that are introduced to children at a young age in other countries around the world. It was the first time I felt that I had to do something to help our youth avoid missing out on an important life skill.”

And with that, the chapter was created.

Empowering Halifax’s youth

CoderDojo Halifax has its own mandate to break down barriers, challenge social and economic stereotypes and to empower youth to shape their world through code. Their mission is: to introduce young Nova Scotians to the joy of computing; to provide fun, free and open learning for students and parents; and to offer a social space where young people can go to explore technology together and alongside skilled mentors.

There are currently ten volunteers that help in a variety of areas to make things run smoothly. To date, the Halifax chapter has held four workshops and plans to now host one a month.

“Our hope is that every child in Nova Scotia has the opportunity to learn how to code at a young age,” says Bassil. “They don’t have to love it, but they shouldn’t be afraid of it.”