December 20, 2020
At the Döhrnstrasse elementary school, we show how children can be introduced to programming in elementary school. At the same time, we are promoting our young talent, as Sarah (15) and Kaja (18) teach the course. It is important to us to arouse interest and motivation for computer science topics in boys and girls alike. Role models are particularly important in this context, and who are better role models than girls who are also not yet that old and can share their enthusiasm for the subject? In our lessons, we want students to understand that computers are not mystical magic boxes - they only execute what a human has programmed. In an interview, Sarah and Kaja talk about their first teaching experiences.
Could you both introduce yourselves?
I am 15 years old and a student of a high school in Lokstedt. In my spare time I am very much involved with computer science and got in touch with moinworld through my former computer science group (TUHH Harburg). It was suggested to me and three other friends to teach programming. Due to our previous experiences we were offered to teach at an elementary school in form of a AG. I accepted, because I think it is interesting to teach children something. But it was too much time for me alone, so I offered to share the work with someone else. Thereupon Kaja got in touch.
I am 18 years old, I graduated from high school this year and am currently doing a voluntary ecological year. I took part in the moinworld summer camp this year, where I got in contact with moinworld for the first time. I continued to attend meetings after that and was later asked if I would be interested in teaching computer science at an elementary school. Since scratching was already easy for me at school, I already knew how to do this. I felt like giving teaching a try.
How did you first get in contact with computer science and programming?
At the TUHH Harburg I did a computer science class for the first time. Before that I also tried out a bit on the computer, but I didn’t really get into it until school.
I’m not sure what exactly my first contact with computer science was. I have always been very interested in natural sciences and I have also been involved in various groups. Meanwhile there are a lot of possibilities for students who like to deal with natural sciences. In the 8th grade I wanted to change from my science course to the computer science course. I don’t know anymore exactly why I wanted to change. I think I had read a book about programming and found it so exciting that I wanted to learn more about it. In fact, I was the only girl in the computer science course, which unfortunately was a strange experience.
How often do you teach the children?
There are two courses a week, one after the other, each for the 2nd and 3rd grade. The course is one hour long but in fact it is usually overrun because the students want to finish something or there are still questions left.
What is the gender ratio in the AG?
The course was offered especially for girls and is accordingly called “Women-Power: Programming 2nd grade/3rd grade”. In each course at least half of the students are female. Among the 12 female students I think there are even 9 girls and only 3 boys.
How exactly do you teach programming to primary school students?
In the beginning we had prepared some nice presentations where we introduced the individual building blocks and procedures. Over time, however, the elementary school students asked more and more when they would finally be able to program. Now that the foundation stones are laid, we always go directly to the computer room. The children are free to decide what they want to do and we give them the input they need. For example, the children first want to be able to move a figure and we give them help on how to do it. In the beginning I was a bit surprised, because the children absolutely wanted to experiment on their own. But now it works really well and the pupils start to help each other. I think it’s nice that the children teach each other things.
Has the Corona pandemic changed the teaching?
We still do the lessons from person to person. I think digitally it would be very difficult to teach the children the material. They would probably lose interest quickly because of the lack of personal interaction. Also, programming is about individuality, which would then no longer exist. Everyone has his or her own program in front of them and can therefore create the lesson individually.
Would you say that the feedback from the students is positive?
They are definitely happy and show great interest but of course it is still teaching. But you can tell that they are looking forward to the course and are very committed. Especially because everyone can do something different. Of course it can also be boring sometimes, for example if there are problems with passwords or similar. But all in all they seem to be very satisfied.
Of course I hope that the children have fun, too. That is the most important thing about the AG. I have never noticed that a child is bored. There are 12 students and we are only 2 teachers, but you can see that it has become a bit quieter lately because everyone is very concentrated. We try to be there for everyone as much as possible. Children need a lot of attention and help, but that is exactly what we enjoy doing. Basically you can feel the uncertainty with the computers, but that’s what we are here for now. We want to take this insecurity away and at the same time show them how much fun it can be.
What do you personally take with you from the course?
Most of all, I enjoy teaching the kids and being part of their first steps in programming. I have noticed that I personally enjoy working with the children. It’s really nice to see how the children are happy when they program something themselves. The fun is the most important thing for me.
I would join in there. Basically you always learn something when you interact with different people. Since I don’t have any smaller siblings, I’m learning how to interact with this age group for the first time. I was surprised how the children function and how they communicate with each other. Although the children are a generation below us, there are many points of intersection with them. For example, we could talk about games that I know from my childhood. I am happy that there can now be a generation that doesn’t come into contact with computer science in 10th grade like I did. In the meantime it is clear that computer science is becoming more and more important and fortunately it is taught earlier and more often. Everything we have learned in computer science classes is simply not enough nowadays to act as a data conscious person. I hope that the generations among us will finally get the necessary support and knowledge to be better positioned later on.