Surrey Libraries Help Empower Individuals In a Tech-Driven Society, One Code Sequence at a Time

Surrey Libraries School Liaison Librarian, Erol Olcay, recognized the opportunity for Surrey’s youth to gain coding knowledge as an important learning subject early on. It however wasn’t until last year when Canadian non-profit organization, Kids Code Jeunesse, reached out to Surrey Libraries during their nation-wide expansion plan that the perfect opportunity to fulfill the community need emerged. Now, coming up to the end of the year, it’s safe to say that Surrey has a movement of up-and-coming tech-savvy youth on its way.

Olcay acts as the current coordinator for the After School Code Clubs held at four Surrey library branches, and helps deliver the program at the City Centre Library location. “The public library is at the forefront of addressing the digital literacy needs of our residents,” explains Olcay. Digital literacy referring to a component of media literacy which assists individuals to find, evaluate, produce and communicate information clearly through different forms of communication on a multitude of digital platforms.

“We know that digital literacy skills are increasingly important in order to succeed in schools and in the workplace,” and “we had heard from local families that they would like to see a children’s coding program in libraries.”

Noting that coding had recently been added to the BC school curriculum, the Surrey Libraries had experimented with a few different concepts for coding programs in the local setting, leading to the implementation of an ongoing after school program. The program would aim to expand children’s classroom learnings, and create a meeting place for new ideas to be shared and explored in an ever-growing, digitally-connected society.

At its core, the Code Club offers a “fun and interactive way for children to build valuable life skills such as logical thinking, teamwork and collaboration skills.” Also, in conjunction with the values of the Kids Code Jeunesse group, the Surrey Libraries Code Club strives to empower children and educators in our city “with the skills necessary to thrive in a technology driven society,” states Olcay.

The Surrey Libraries After School Code Clubs provide children ages 8-12 to gain awareness and skill sets with basic programming concepts through the MIT developed, web-based, graphical programming language, Scratch. Scratch was initially designed for education in mind, and is recognized for being easy to use for all ages, and providing a fun lego-like approach with it’s visual and colourful nature. Through this program, children can drag and combine code blocks to create a range of programs in an interactive way.

Each branch of the club meets once a week at 4 different library locations in Surrey: City Centre, Guildford, Strawberry Hill and Semiahmoo. With the consistent support of Kids Code Jeunesse, Surrey Libraries has been provided the curricular content and receives additional support with their volunteer recruitment as well. “Our volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from self-taught young adults to retired industry professionals. Our program participants are local school-aged children. Some children are already familiar with scratch before joining the program but for many After School Code Club is their first experience with coding.”

Reflecting on the future of technology in our city, Olcay acknowledges that “technology will play a major role as the City of Surrey grows and evolves, [and] at Surrey Libraries [they] are looking at ways to leverage technology to inspire creativity and innovation and connect people and ideas.” And with the news that the After School Code Club aligns with the new Strategic Plan, the program will continue to evolve and grow. What’s next for the Surrey Libraries growing impact on digital literacy? They are currently developing new kids coding and robotics library programs for 2019 – so stay tuned!

Do you want to get involved in the Surrey Libraries After School Coding Club program and make a difference in our community? Contact your local library and ask about coding programs for kids whether. Learn more here.