A Dundee primary school could be home to the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg – thanks to an innovative new course.
Children at Ardler Primary School attend ‘Code Clubs’ to learn how to create computer games and animations.
Teacher Jennifer Smith said: “We take the big challenge of designing a game and split that into manageable steps – using programmes called Scratch and Python.”
It’s lunchtime for the children and Jennifer is assisting 16 children in primary 6 and 7 to create their own games. Jennifer first took it upon herself to attend a few ‘coding’ classes before teaching it to the children.
She said: “It’s like learning a new language, and the kids pick it up more quickly than adults. The children have taught me a lot too.
“They are around computers a lot. I think just knowing how to work them is not enough now – they must be able to be in charge of what a computer can do.”
“The kids love it because it’s empowering. They are in control of what they produce and can keep building on them. They can share their games for others to play or develop further.”
The children have been taking part in the classes with much enthusiasm for 6 weeks now. They began by following instructions to produce games together – including the popular mobile game Flappy Bird.
Jennifer added: “The possibilities for the children are endless. We look at different software and what programmers like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have produced and the children aspire to that.”
Primary seven pupil, Leoni Doig, has made a new game called Dodgeball. The 11-year-old goes into detail about the tools she has used to make it.
She said: “It’s one of my favourites to play. The actual coding is the best bit and seeing if it actually works after.”
In her spare time she likes to play computer games. In particular she likes Minecraft – an electronic version of lego where players can create characters and work together to build 3D constructs in the online fantasy world.
She said: “I love Minecraft, I would play it 24/7 if I could.”
Her friend, Amy McDonald, another Primary 7 pupil added: “She even gets up before school to play.”
Ten-year-old Amy is creating a game called ‘Dragon Tig’ where the player must collect dragons that appear next to a Dracula’s Castle to earn points as time runs out.
Amy said: “I’d like game testing or coding as a job because it’s creative, you can make random things and it is fun. You can do what you want and keep trying things to see if they work.”
The pair also enjoy a game called Bottle Collector which a previous team of school children from Ardler won at Games Jam – a popular digital event held in the city.
They are often split into teams to make games together and learn from each other. Teacher Pamela said: “They can help each other with debugging problems, and push one another. It’s addictive and fun.”
Another primary seven pupil busily engaged in her game making, 11-year-old Kristen Bradley said: “My brother is a coder. He’s in high school. He’s good at spelling and maths and that helps because if you make a spelling mistake in coding it shows up as an error.”
Kristen is working on a game she has named Boat Race, but she has chosen to make it in space with the aim of bypassing obstacles to reach different planets. She points out various boosters that can be used to make player go faster.
Education convener Councillor Stewart Hunter said: “The work that is going on at Ardler Primary and schools across the city is truly inspiring.”
Jenni Mackay, Dundee’s Education Support Officer in Digital Learning, said: “Coding and Code Clubs are allowing pupils to identify skills for learning, life and work which will be key to their futures and enabling them to maintain and support the already vibrant digital industry in Dundee.”