The Breakout Mentors approach to coding requires a lot from our instructors. Much more than a summer camp or after-school center that will have a step-by-step tutorial led by a high school student. To illustrate the difference, let’s compare it to kids learning to make art.
It is easy to help someone color between the lines. It is a highly structured exercise with most of the work done for you (the original drawing) and very little can go wrong. It qualifies as art and is a fine way to get started, but ultimately isn’t going to create an artist.
There are a ton of these structured art exercises though, so an after-school or summer camp provider can simply move on to the next thing that feels productive. It hopefully succeeds at building exposure and excitement – just don’t expect the student to be closer to creating her own art.
Contrast that to a lower student-teacher ratio that allows for individual instruction. In fact, let’s look at the ideal of one-on-one!
Now you can remove some of the structure and rely on the instructor to personalize it for the student. “What do you want to create?” “Let’s look at your previous project and see what parts we can reuse.” “Remember we learned how to create perfect circles, how would that apply to this project?”
For a student, it feels productive to “add a new tool to the tool belt”. But it is harder and more valuable to learn how to use the tools you have to achieve the desired result. In coding this requires more planning ahead, troubleshooting, and critical thinking skills!
However, this approach presents greater challenges for the instructor. They have to be able to think on your feet, not just chug through a worksheet or online tutorial. They have to think in terms of the student’s current skills and decide when the time is right to “add a new tool”.
We scour the Bay Area for talented kids coding mentors. Our mentors come from the top colleges where they study engineering and Computer Science. The vast majority are from Stanford and UC Berkeley, but also some excellent folks at Santa Clara University and University of San Francisco.
At the start of the school year many talented mentors joined our team. Our aim is to have the perfect mentor for a wide variety of student ages and coding skills. We just added several new mentor profiles to the website, here are a few highlights:
- Patrick Lee at UC Berkeley – “I like seeing the shock and joy on their faces when they figure out some piece of the code.”
- Kaylie Zhu at Stanford – “Learning to code fosters problem-solving skills and improves kids’ creativity, communication and persistence.”
- Jeyla Aranjo at Stanford – “I wish I’d been introduced to code earlier, and it makes me happy to know that Breakout Mentors students have the opportunity.”
- Anthony Fenzl at Santa Clara University – “I started coding in Java when I was 14, I was preparing for the AP CS and ended up taking it that same year. Starting to program so early allowed me to have a good head start coming into university.”
- Jonathan Griffin at Stanford – “My favorite student project so far is a game where the user controls a cannon to hit targets that appear on the screen.”
- Andrew Chang at Stanford – “Programming is a creative process and allows you to do so many things, so the earlier you start, the more chances you have to learn and explore new material.”
- Nandika Donthi at UC Berkeley – “My advice to kid coders is to work on projects that interest you and don’t be afraid to make mistakes!”
We meet Bay Area students in-person at the college campus and over video conference with students all over the world. If your son or daughter would benefit from a personal mentor, please contact us here.