eKids Volunteers: 10+ Years of Teaching Coding to Help Kids Develop Skills for the Future (Part 2)

Interview

As technology continues to impact every part of our lives, the demand for people with coding skills grows. This is why we’ve been building a community that encourages children to explore software engineering through the Scratch platform. The eKids program wouldn’t be what it is today without our 750+ volunteers spanning 14 countries and spending 31,000+ hours helping local children learn to code, preparing them for the future.

In our previous eKids Volunteers interview segment, we spoke with EPAMers from Canada and the UK about their dedication to and enthusiasm for teaching EPAM eKids. Here’s another segment from some volunteers in Belarus and Ukraine:

Why did you decide to volunteer for EPAM eKids?

Aliaksei Rabchanka (Belarus): The main reason I chose to volunteer is because of my son's interest in IT. Another reason is the opportunity to look at many things through the eyes of kids. By this, I mean that the children's view on the implementation of algorithms is different from an adult’s, and kids often offer original solutions.

Maryia Brantsava (Belarus): Because it’s a great opportunity to be involved in a good and useful deed. Also, it gives me a chance to develop as a mentor for children who want to learn programming.

Anna Ustinova (Ukraine): There were a few reasons, but the main reason was because I wanted to take part in a new experience where I can learn different things and help make a difference by teaching children the skills they will need to know in the future.

Can you tell me what the eKids workshops are like?

Aliaksei Rabchanka (Belarus): My workshops usually include a warm-up to prepare everyone for the lesson. Then the students practice what they learned from past workshops. After that, we go over new material and spend more time practicing.

Maryia Brantsava (Belarus): The lesson lasts for 1.5 hours. During this time, we study programming (with Scratch, Python, Java, JavaScript, etc.) and robotics (with Lego WeDo and Lego Mindstorms). We also develop soft skills, like teamwork and communication.

Anna Ustinova (Ukraine): For the workshops, we prepare to cover one topic and usually end up improvising based on what will hold the children’s attention and excite them the most.

How easy is it for people with non-tech backgrounds to learn the Scratch program?

Aliaksei Rabchanka (Belarus): For an adult, I'm sure it wouldn’t take more than two hours to understand the basic principles.

Maryia Brantsava (Belarus): If it’s easy for children to learn, then it shouldn’t be difficult for adults. I worked with people who do not have technical skills and they usually learn how to work with Scratch from written programs.

Anna Ustinova (Ukraine): In general, I think that someone with a completely non-technical background can learn Scratch within a couple of hours. It’s that easy!

Why is it so important for kids to learn about technology like coding at such a young age and how does Scratch fit into this initiative?

Aliaksei Rabchanka (Belarus): It’s not just about learning to code. I think that the most important part is learning how to think logically and showing kids how to reason and build algorithms. EPAM eKids is even more valuable because the student’s parents are engaged in the training.

Maryia Brantsava (Belarus): Learning programming is like learning a foreign language, and programming develops a lot of skills, such as math, logic and creativity. Coding lessons can also help children choose their future profession. Scratch is a simple and easy way for children to understand programming visually through games.

Anna Ustinova (Ukraine): I believe it’s important for kids to get familiar with technology. Down the road, they will decide for themselves whether or not it is interesting to them and if they want to pursue a career in tech. However, by learning these skills at a young age, they will expend their horizon. Scratch is such an amazing tool to teach kids because of its gamification features.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges that kids and educators face today in a technology-driven world?

Aliaksei Rabchanka (Belarus): I think the greatest challenge for children are the games and gadgets that distract them from learning, and it is very difficult for educators to compete with this.

Maryia Brantsava (Belarus): The biggest challenge is properly translating technical knowledge for children to easily understand.

Anna Ustinova (Ukraine): There’s tons of information out there and it’s hard to focus on one thing. In addition, there’s a lot of pressure to learn everything and learn it quickly. Sometimes, this results in confusion and not knowing the best place to start.

What are some of your favorite moments as an eKids volunteer and what is the most impressive thing you’ve seen the students accomplish?

Aliaksei Rabchanka (Belarus): I really like it when the kids continue working on their projects after the class is over. It shows me that they’re really enjoying what they learn.

Maryia Brantsava (Belarus): My favorite part of the program is when the children begin to come up with games and applications on their own, especially when they were previously uninterested.

Anna Ustinova (Ukraine): My favorite moments are when the kids suggest ideas that you never thought of yourself.

If you’re looking for more insights from our eKids volunteers, there’s more to come in the next installment of this series!

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