By Christopher Clark
THE LONDON FREE PRESS
Monday, March 8, 2010
In a battle for the hearts and minds, video games have a hold on kids that sometimes seems impossible to break.
Summer camps sometimes do the trick, getting kids off the couch to a place where there may or may not even be a couch – and certainly no game consoles.
Coming to London this summer is a hybrid of sorts; a computer programming camp for kids who love video games and want to learn how to make their own.
Toronto-based Real Programming 4 Kids is expanding beyond it’s Toronto area base and offering camps for kids from age seven to high school age.
They are being run locally by Scott King 25, a Mt. Brydges native who went to St. Tomas Aquinas secondary school before getting a bachelor’s degree in math and education. He is the director of education for the company, having started there on a co-op program while at the University of Waterloo.
“I really liked working here on my co-op placement. In fact, I realized I liked teaching so much that I went to teacher’s college at Queen’s after I graduated from Waterloo.”
Now he’s in charge of hiring and training teachers as well as developing new courses. He and a colleague will be in London at the end of this month to conduct free, 45-minute assessment classes. Anyone interested can call to book a time.
“We basically run through a lesson so the kids can see if they like it.”
“It also allows us to see what skills they have so we know what class level would be appropriate for them in the summer.”
There are 10 levels of classes, an expansion from previous years. New this year is ALICE, a programming language geared to kids as young as seven. The other levels teach increasingly complex languages and are geared to specific games and consoles.
Beginners work on a magic show game or Frogger or Pacman. More advanced students use Mario, Asteroids or Megaman, among others. The most advanced classes are open and encourage kids to write their own programs for any game they can imagine. At any level, kids write and adapt programs as the week goes on.
“We use the video games to teach math concepts, so kids can see them in use,” King says.
“For example, we use Donkey Kong (a Level 4 class) to teach the concept of slope. It works really well because they see it in action.”
Classes will begin at the end of June and run all summer, assuming there is enough demand. The teacher/camper ratio is never more than 1:4, and kids can go for half a day or all day.
The camp is setting up in a rented space at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Fanshawe Park Rd. E.
“We bring laptops for everyone to use, but if kids want to bring their own computer, that’s good too,” King says.
The camp is not cheap. Beginning courses cost $450 for a week of half-days. The more advanced courses are two-week sessions and range from $960 to $1,260 for half-days.
Nearly all students in the past have been boys, about 96%.
However, King has high hopes that the ALICE course will attract young girls to camp. After all, lots of girls like video games, too.