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Scratch Camp- Kids Tell All

I shared a few thoughts on last week’s Scratch Camp over on the iThemes blog, but I wanted to talk about one of the things that touched me most here.


After each camp, we send a survey to parents asking for their feedback. But we also really love to get it straight from our campers.

Kids don’t hold back. If they loved it, they’ll use all the exclamation points they can fit on the page. If they were bored, they’ll skip the sugar coating and tell you that too. And after all, everything’s a little cuter when written in Crayola.

Out of the mouths of babes

Here are a few of the feedback forms we got from campers:





Hard fun promotes passionate learning.

Can you guess the thing about our camper’s feedback forms that really stuck with me?

“I had some struggles. It was hard, but fun!”

To an educator, that’s some of the the best feedback you can get. Because learning doesn’t happen on accident. Even if the end result is something you really want, it takes work and diligence to get there.

Let kids try and fail and then try again, that’s where learning begins!

As adults, we’re quick to preach the “learning is fun” mantra, but perhaps it would better serve the next generation to say, “Learning can be really tough…but fun comes once you grasp the skill, so the hard work is worth it!”

If we teach well, we can guide our kids and students gracefully through the parts that are just plain hard work, knowing that excitement and fun are on the other side.

Minecraft Challenge Camp in Oklahoma City

*Editors note: This camp has reached capacity! To find out about other camps as they are announced, sign up to recieve our newsletter.

Does your child enjoy building, working with others and solving challenging problems in Minecraft? Sign up to participate in our MinecraftEDU Building and Redstone Engineering Challenge Kids Camp!

Minecraft registration

What does a Minecraft Challenge Camp look like?

Student participants will have an opportunity to build together on either our MinecraftEDU Building Challenge Server (in Creative mode) or our Redstone Engineering Challenge Server (in MinecraftEDU mode). On each server, student groups will be provided with building challenges as well as resources, tutorials and instructions on how to complete each challenge.

Multiple challenges will be available. These will include simple challenges like “designing and building cute animals” to more complex challenges like building a rollercoaster or a Redstone-powered house with opening doors, automatic lights, door bells, etc. Prior experience with Minecraft is helpful but not required. Prior experience building with Minecraft Redstone is not required.

  • Date: Friday, July 15
  • Time: 9 AM – 3 PM
  • Location: Casady School
  • Facilitator: Wes Fryer
  • Grades: 3rd – 8th
  • Capacity: 20 students
  • Cost: $40
    • Includes lunch
    • Scholarships and multi-child family discounts are available. Email for details.

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Scratch Day Camp in OKC

Scratch Day is a global network of events that celebrates Scratch and the young people who code and create with it. To celebrate, The Div is hosting a Scratch Camp in Oklahoma City!


What is Scratch?

Scratch is a visual programming language developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT. Scratch makes it easy for children to program their own interactive stories, games and animations, and share these creations with others in the online community. As young people create and share Scratch projects, they learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also learning to think creatively, reason systematically and work collaboratively— essential skills for life in the 21st century.

  • Date: Saturday, May 14
  • Time: 9 AM – 3 PM
  • Location: Oklahoma City University
  • Facilitator: Wes Fryer
  • Grades: 2nd- 6th
  • Capacity: 28 students
  • Cost: $30
    • Multi-child family discount: $50 for 2 or more kids from the same family.
    • Scholarships are available.

Email with any questions.

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Scratch Camp Educator Training

We hosted our first Oklahoma Scratch Camp Educator training last weekend. A group of educators and community members interested in utilizing technology in education came together to learn how to help students develop the skills and mindsets they need to be successful in the future economy and society.

ScratchBlogLogoWe started the day by discussing the keys to successful Scratch learning and ended with some valuable exploration time. If you’re curious, all of the day’s resources and materials have been made available to all.

Here are my biggest takeaways for those of you who are thinking about using Scratch, or any other tool for teaching kids to code, in your classroom or at home:

Low bar, wide walls, high ceiling

If Scratch was a room, that’s what it would be shaped like. Low floor (easy to get started, even with zero programming experience), high ceiling (even though it’s easy to get started, it’s also possible to create really complex projects) and wide walls (Scratchers can make all kinds of projects- not just art animations but games, experiments and stuff we haven’t even imagined yet).

Start with an “unplugged” activity to introduce concepts

One of the most entertaining parts of the day was when our instructor, Wes Fryer played blindfold remote control. With his eyes covered, Wes had to get to the doorway without bumping into anything with the help of a volunteer who used only his voice to give short commands and guide him across the room. Kids love this activity and it lays the foundation for learning about algorithms and directing sprites in Scratch.

Be Socratic (Ask, don’t tell)

Don’t just give kids the answers, help them work to FIND the answers they already know. Ask leading questions to help them get to the root of the problem.

Don’t do too much instructing 

Go over the basics and then let students run with it by playing and experimenting. It’s okay to help when students get stuck, but always let them control the mouse. If they’re not doing the driving, chances are they aren’t the ones doing the learning either.

Don’t reinvent the wheel

One of the things I love about Scratch is the vast amount of resources that already exist. ScratchEd is an online community where Scratch educators connect to share stories, exchange resources and ask questions. The fine folks at MIT have also created materials like the Creative Computing Curriculum Guide and the Scratch Workshop Design Guide. They even have an entire website devoted to helping educators and community members host International Scratch Day events.

Speaking of Scratch Day, we’re participating! We’ll be one of over 200 Scratch Day events happening across the globe.

Save the date scratch day

Be sure to save the date for Scratch Camp on Saturday, May 14. We’re hosting camp at Oklahoma City University and there are 28 seats available. Registration will open later this week.

Teaching Kids to Code with Scratch- Free Training

If you’ve ever wanted to get involved with The Div, now’s your chance! Join us on Saturday, April 16th from 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM for a free Scratch training led by experienced educator, Dr. Wesley Fryer. We’ll be walking through an overview of the Scratch program and how it helps kids learn to code, as well as providing the activities and tools to facilitate a Scratch Camp.

What is Scratch?


Scratch is a visual programming language developed at MIT that allows kids to develop a range of problem solving that will help them when they move on to real-world programming. Despite its simple interface, it allows users to create complex animations and games, and learn many fundamental coding concepts.

Why are we doing this?

The Div relies on community support to advance our mission to bring computer science learning opportunities to kids in Oklahoma. We are looking for teachers, parents and capable practitioners who work in the tech industry to help us lead kids camps.

This workshop is a great opportunity to get involved with The Div, or just learn a little more about using Scratch on your own, in the classroom or with your children at home. If you have questions about registration or about The Div, contact

Click here to register


Save the date! Scratch Camp Training on April 16

Div Jr. Scratch Camp TrainingOn Saturday, April 16 we’re offering a Scratch camp training session led by Dr. Wesley Fryer. With this workshop, we want to equip educators to confidently share Scratch with young learners.

Understanding technology is an important part of literacy in today’s society and when kids learn to code in Scratch, they learn important strategies for solving problems, designing projects and communicating ideas.

“I’m so thrilled to be working with Dr. Wesley Fryer again with our restart of The Div and Div Jr.,” said Cory Miller, Board President of The Div. “He’s an experienced educator, extremely passionate about improving the lives of kids through technology and has an incredible vision that is going to be invaluable for us as we seek to make an impact in Oklahoma, and beyond.”

This is a great opportunity to find out how you can get involved with The Div, or just learn a little more about teaching Scratch.

Full details coming soon! Sign up for our newsletter to receive more information when it is announced.

CS Ed Week: Every Student Succeeds

POTUS Every Student Succeeds

President Barack Obama signs S. 1177, Every Student Succeeds Act during a bill a signing ceremony, Dec. 10, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Yesterday, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law. The bipartisan bill largely replaces the No Child Left Behind Act. It impacts everything from testing standards to funding, and it was a big win for computer science education.

The bill defines subjects that make up a “well-rounded education” and for the first time ever, computer science made the list! That’s a big deal because the bill uses that definition to determine curriculum and professional development decisions. The bill includes provisions that call for teachers to have professional development opportunities so they can be trained to teach STEM subjects, including computer science.

We talk a lot about around here, and for good reason. They’ve been pressing lawmakers to include provisions like these for a very long time. According to COO Cameron Wilson, the move is a big step towards their long term vision that every student in every school deserves the opportunity to learn computer science. Check out his post for more information on how the bill impacts computer science and ways that your school can access Federal funding.

Great change is coming to our classrooms, but it will take time. Reinforce computer science education by providing fun and engaging opportunities for your child to learn and create with technology! Sign up for our newsletter to stay in the loop about Div Jr. camps coming in early 2016.

Did you miss one of our CS Ed Week posts? You can read them all here.

CS Ed Week: Tech Toy Gift Guide

Wondering how to shape young minds obsessed with their iPads this holiday season? Show them that what’s inside the machine is as interesting as what’s on the screen.

Play is a crucial component of a child’s development process. It boosts brain development, builds creativity and can even shape the way kids think about the world.

Here are some great options to help a child on your shopping list turn screen time into tinker time.


Color Alive

(Ages 4+)  After coloring a page, use the accompanying app to scan the page and the characters come to live on your device! Starting at just $6, this one’s a winner for all ages.




Cubelets Six Kit

(Ages 4+)  Cubelets are magnetic blocks for children ages 4+ that can be snapped together to make robots with no programming and no wires. Cubelets Six comes complete with everything inventors young and old need to start building robots




Wonder Workshop Dash & Dot

(Ages 5+) Opening their eyes to how the world around them works, Dash and Dot guide kids through the world of coding and robotics, turning ideas into adventures. You can buy Dash and Dot individually or as a pack and there’s a corresponding app for every age group, learning level and play style.




Code Monkey Island

(Ages 6+ ) This board game is designed to teach kids computer science logic. Players guide their monkeys around the board using concepts like conditional statements, looping, booleans and more.




Kano Computer Kit

(Ages 6-12) The Kano Computer Kit is a computer anyone can make. You build and code it yourself. It’s a fun way to make, play and express your creativity with technology.




Sphero SPRK Edition

(8+) This app-enabled robotic ball is a companion to your phone or tablet and makes the basics of coding principles super fun, even the little learners can figure out basic coding that makes Sphero come to life.





(Ages 8+)  Moss is a block based robot construction system. They were designed to teach the big lessons behind complex systems and design thinking. You don’t have to know how to program to play, but as kids get more comfortable with the system they can expand their experience to include reprogramming. MOSS supports Scratch and C.




Makey Makey

(Ages 8+)MaKey MaKey was initiated by two students at the MIT Media Lab (The birthplace of Scratch) and is an invention kit for everyone. It lets kids turn everyday objects like bananas into touchpads and combines them with the power of the Internet.





(8+) littleBits is a platform of easy-to-use electronic building blocks for creating inventions large and small.




9172k4887lL._SL1500_LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3

(10+)  LEGO MINDSTORMS is a programmable robotics construction set that gives kids the power to build, program and command their own LEGO robots. The corresponding software allows kids to build, program and control the robot from your computer or phone.

CS Ed Week: Interview with STEM Teacher, Adam Carr

STEM Teacher Adam Carr

Adam at the K-5 Affiliate Summit held in Chicago, Illinois.

As part of our CS Ed Week series, today we’re interviewing STEM teacher and K-5 Affiliate, Adam Carr.

I had the pleasure of meeting Adam during an Educator Workshop last month, and his passion for what he does is contagious.

Tell us about yourself. What classes/activities do you teach or sponsor?

I teach at Bridge Creek High School SW of OKC where I have been teaching for 13 years. My degree is actually in field biology from Southwestern Oklahoma State University, and I spent most of my teaching career teaching math. I really just love learning and teaching, and feel most rewarded when working on new or big challenges.

I currently teach an introduction to programing class, robotics, and yearbook. My programing class introduces computers as a tool humans create with, by working with Scratch, HTML, and making video games using the Construct 2 game development platform. My robotics class is actually a competition team that competes in the FIRST Tech challenge, a robotics competition hosted by FIRST, that has students develop an 18x18x18in robot to accomplish standardized tasks on a predesigned field. My Yearbook class focuses on using technology to create the aesthetics of the yearbook- we learn about digital photography, layouts, and photo editing using professional tools like Photoshop but also open source programs like GIMP.

Outside of the classroom, I coach the high school academic team, film for the football team, drive a bus for wrestling and cheer leading, as well as organize the elementary and middles school after school robotics programs. When I can squeeze in the opportunity, I host professional development opportunities for elementary school teachers to learn the K5 Computer Science curriculum created by In the summer I like to play Legos with my daughters, take on a wood working project or two, find new technology resources for my classroom, and I like reading.

How’d you get into the field?

I have always enjoyed building things. The very human challenges of incorporating the Internet of Things into our daily lives seemed like an issue schools should be introducing to students but weren’t, not for lack of will, but lack of resources. So, I decided to be a resource my school could use to make things happen in computer education.

I started my robotics team as an after school program, using my own time and some GT dollars the school had given me. As I got things going the school saw the potential and wanted to do more, it’s now been a class for the past three years. My principal a few years before wanted to be offering more computer courses, and wanted to capitalize on using computer courses to count for math credit when taught by a math teacher. That was my first chance at teaching in the computer science discipline, my own experience with the subject was limited but I found that there were lots of free tools online that could be used to make a class, though my primary assignment was still math. When the position came open to teach computers all day I felt very strongly that we push our course offering to go beyond desktop publishing, the administration agreed and let me move from the math department to computers.

Why are you passionate about STEM education? Why do you think teaching STEM courses is important?

Two personal observations fuel my passion for STEM education, specifically computer science education:

  • Students don’t inherently see themselves as creators, but rather consumers of technology. The pervasiveness of technology in our society sets up this illusion that technology is something that always has been and will be. I feel it very important that students see that creating new technology is something anybody could do, and that the technology we have today is made by people just like them. All it takes is effort and want to.
  • Economic necessity, technology has reached the price point where the opportunity for innovation exist not just in computer science as a discipline but every discipline, every profession, every vocation, will reward those that incorporate the technology into day to day operations, increasing efficiency and productivity. All walks of life will benefit from incorporating computer science. Those that can’t, create let alone use those innovations, will be impaired by the changes, if as a nation we are not at least sharing in these innovation we will suffer as a nation. We owe it to our children and our own economic prosperity to be teaching computer science as a core discipline, and stressing the creative applications of computer science to do work.

Sometimes STEM subjects can be a little dry to teach. What do you do to keep it interesting and make sure your students are engaged?

Video game design- it incorporates physics, math and computer science, plus offers a unique incentive for students to apply persistence in problem solving. I have also found that web design, specifically with cascading style sheets, is good way to introduce students to the power of classifying and labeling.

In my programing classes I am always on the look out for opportunities to stress computer science as field that requires team work, collaboration, solving problems for the larger population. Being proactive about re branding computer science as something people to do as a team effort to create products that help people, I think is important to keeping any potential student engaged.

We’ve heard for a long time that girls are underrepresented in STEM fields. Do you see less interest at the high school level? What do you think can be done to encourage girls to participate?

My programming class is very representative of the larger student body, but then we only have 430 in the high school so options are limited for them to go somewhere else. I do find it harder to recruit girls to robotics and harder to recruit guys to yearbook. I know that some of those preferences are set before they ever see the choice of enrollment, which is why I started the elementary and middle school robotics programs after school, to provide opportunity for all students to see themselves as technology innovators. I feel at the younger grades it has been successful in maintaining diversity, and I hope it pays off as those students come to the high school.

With the HS girls in robotics, which is about a third of the team, I try and give extra energy to making sure they feel engaged in the project, listening to how they see their ability to contribute, and connecting them to resources. The girls that have come to robotics have been those that gravitate to the service learning projects we do, like taking robots up to the children’s hospital, or the YouTube or Twitter accounts we keep for the team. However, it happens every year, boys jump into building the robot, reach a plateau, then a girl on the build team or not, sits down with the robot and comes up with that fresh, alternate perspective that pushes the design forward again.

You have daughters- is it important to you that they’re exposed to STEM?

I want my daughters to grow up seeing technology as a tool they are powerful to create with, but I know that creating anything is often a team effort, and teams need diversity to be strong. My oldest daughter does like to build with Legos and program robots, but she builds different things than I do. She doesn’t like to program alone, even though she can, she likes feeling like she did something with somebody.

Gender and ethnic diversity are not only moral goods that we owe it to each other to protect, but they benefit productivity and innovation for the sake of team. Boys and girls are different, but differences are not labels we should put on each other, that stifles the potential contribution of the individual and so the team. Differences are something we should relish in each other, something we should celebrate as the key ingredient that allows the team to be greater than the some of its parts. As much as gender and ethnicity have differences, on a personal level when I work with someone, it’s not my place to label what those differences will be, its my joy to discover what those difference could be.

Tell us about your involvement with How did you get into it? Why do you think it’s important?

When I was in the math department we saw the Hour of Code and thought that was a really great project and there was a chance of winning a classroom set of laptops, so we decided to do the Hour of Code for one day in every math class for the whole high school over the course of the CS education week. We did it, the kids loved it, we didn’t win the laptops.

That spring, sent out an email to those that had participated asking for people that would want to be apart of a new program to promote their K5 elementary curriculum. That sounded like something that was important to me and I had some experience with professional development, so I filled out their questionnaire and they invited me to be one of the first 100 K5 affiliates in the nation. I have hosted 11 workshops over the past year and a half and trained about 150 teachers in Oklahoma.

Are you or your school doing anything to participate in Hour of Code this week?

This will be our third year to do the Hour of Code for every student in the high school through the math department.

We’re working on a tech toy gift guide for tomorrow’s blog, what’s are some of your favorite tech learning tools or toys?

The Lego Mindstorm is probably my favorite because it so easy to create a physical robot that does a physical task. As you program it, you can watch what it does and get a more tactile experience for how to trouble shoot code. Programs like RobotC introduce a C based language and command line interface to programing the eV3 that elevates the kinds programing experience you can have with the eV3.

I would like to be playing with Arduinos and LittleBits but both those technologies are just electronics, the gears, arms and end effectors would all have to be created from scratch. With Legos the physical form and gears are pre-existing, standardized to fit together, and more known to the students. I’ve worked with students long enough to know that sometimes what they know and can do fast is actually a hindrance to their creativity, because they don’t always push themselves to do something new.

The Ardunio and LittleBits is enough of an unknown in terms of fabrication and that the cost of adding them to what I am doing is not an expense I can justify with the money I have, but I would really like to see what they come up with if they had to spend a little more effort planing what they want and how to make it.

What advice do you have for parents and other educators to inspire their kids to be more involved in STEM subjects?

Offer something, anything, whatever you can, the only thing that’s missing is the ability to get paid for your effort.

Start a code club, google has a new initiative called CS First, where they provide all the resources to do coding clubs from social media to game design. Web sites like, Code Avengers, Code HS, Code Combat, offer free curriculum to teach kids to codes in a variety of languages and interfaces. Partner with groups like TheDiv or TechJOYnt, to connect kids to resources.

A Lego Mindstorm has a lower learning curve, but a price tag of $350-$500. Products like LittleBits, Arduinos, or a new one I’m excited about, DashRobotics, not Dash and Dot, all have a much lower price point $50 to $200 but a little steeper learning curve.

No matter what the learning curve or your own ability, Youtube will teach you to do anything. Amazon has hundreds of books loaded with project ideas. The web is busting with resources to learn at whatever level you are and however deep you want to go.

I think the best thing, especially parents could do, is inspire curiosity and persistence in their kids. Next time a toy with a motor or light breaks, don’t throw it away, take it apart, see how it works. Try and put the components together in a new way. It’s not about knowing how to, it’s about the experience of figuring out how. Have the experience of discovery with your child. End the paradigm that technology has been, will always be, made by others who know, and you don’t. Learning and creating defines us a species, embrace it and let it be fun.

What’s your advice for kids who want to get more involved in technology or computer science but whose schools might not offer those courses?

Society should care enough about its own economic future to be greasing the wheels of future generations to be creators an innovators of the 21st century, but when society fails to prioritize the issues slapping it in the face, take matters into your own hands.

Instead of streaming 10 hrs of Sponge Bob, look up videos on cool Arduino projects, or cool Rasberry Pi projects. Make something, anything, identify a problem you could solve by making something, then make it. Don’t let anyone, especially yourself, say you can’t.

The Laws of Physics were not voted on by congress, they can’t be changed just because they don’t serve your purpose. You have to know them, understand them, and make them work for you, not against you. It’s hard, but not any harder for you than the billions of people who have lived before you, and their persistence created the world you live in. Everything around you has a secret to tell, about the physical world that can be bent or directed to do something new and interesting. The study of History is the story of how people figured out how to do stuff and changed world they lived in, getting inside a history book is getting inside the secrets of innovation for a million life times. If your history teacher isn’t teaching it that way, then get online and look it up, read a different book.

If you want to be powerful you have to know how things work now, so that you can make it do something new. School is not just about cramming facts into your brain that are going to fall out the day after the test. Just like an athlete lifts weights to get stronger, the tasks and challenges we do in school, especially math, are exercises for your brain that make you a better problem solver. Accept school as a challenge to train and mold your brain, then take your stronger faster brain, and make something that changes the world.

Regardless of what curriculum your school is able to give you, be the person you want to be. If technology is important to you then pursue it. Self improvement, making something new is hard work, but regardless of if your doing it in a class or on your own, it will only be as powerful as it personal. Own your own destiny.

Hour of Code- How to Participate in CS Ed Week

More than 186,000 learning centers around the country are participating in this year’s Hour of Code. But what if your child’s school isn’t hosting an event? Or what if you’re a grown up that wants to get in on the action yourself? No fear, it’s easy to get involved right from home, even if you don’t have a computer! Here are just a few resources to help you and your kids learn to code during Computer Science Education Week and beyond.

Online and App Experiences 

CVpnGZqXAAIKCGs.png-large is the brain behind the Hour of Code movement. Their Star Wars, Minecraft and Frozen tutorials are a big hit with kids as early as age 6. The Star Wars activity also boasts a JavaScript tutorial that’s geared towards ages 11 and up. With dozens of partner links on the site, there’s truly something suitable for everyone.



Scratch was developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. With Scratch, kids can program their own interactive stories, games, and animations — and share their creations with others in the online community. Scratch is the program our original Div Jr. camps were built around.

Scratch Jr. 


Scratch Jr. is everything we love about Scratch, redesigned to be developmentally appropriate for younger children (ages 5-7). The features match young children’s cognitive, personal, social, and emotional development. It’s available as a free app for both iPad and Android tablets.



HopScotch is another option that’s great for tablet users. It lets you program your own games and publish them instantly for anyone to play. Best suited for kids ages 10 and up.



Tynker offers self-paced online courses for children to learn coding at home, as well as an engaging programming curriculum for schools. Activities range from the Kindergarten to 8th grade level.



Codeacademy has three quick and easy 30 minute activities where students can animate their name, make a website or build their own galaxy. Older kids and adults can go on to make use of Codecademy’s entire interactive platform that offers free coding classes in 9 different programming languages.


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codeSpark’s gamelike software, The Foos, teaches basic computer programming skills — “the ABCs of coding”— with no reading necessary. It’s aimed at children as young as 5.



You can complete your Hour of Code with Kodable via any device, or even unplugged! This award winning game and accompanying curriculum is designed to teach the basics of computer coding to kids 5 and up.



CodeMonkey is an engaging online game that teaches real computer programming to children as young as 9. Beginners typically learn with text and block-based code. For a more challenging activity, students can use CodeMonkey to jump into txt-based programming.

iTunes Store

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You can find many of these and more on the iTunes Store’s special Hour of Code section. They’ve highlighted apps, books and iTunes U courses to help users get started with computer science or deepen existing knowledge.

Unplugged Activities

No computer? No problem! That doesn’t mean you can’t teach your kids computer science. Unplugged activities are great for letting younger students dive right in or for those who don’t have access to technology. Unplugged activities use things like cards, crayons, string and movement to let everyone experience the kinds of questions and challenges that computer scientists experience, but without having to learn programming first.

CS Unplugged– This would be my first stop. There are dozens of cool unplugged activities here.

Thinkersmith’s My Robotic Friends Activity

Thinkersmith’s Binary Baubles Activity’s Conditionals With Cards Activity

Kodable’s Fuzz Family Frenzy Activity

Project Gut’s Rock, Paper, Scissors Activity 

In Person Experiences

Microsoft and Apple stores across the country are hosting workshops and other special events in conjunction with the Hour of Code movement. If you’re local, Penn Square’s Apple location is hosting their event on Thursday, December 10th at 7:30 PM and Microsoft has events lined up this Saturday, December 12 and Sunday, December 13. Make sure to register online before you go.