Sunday, March 1, 2015

Davis Arts Center: The art of digital literacy

From page A3 | June 25, 2014 |

Scratch Camp1w

Leading Davis Code Camp instructor Hanna Moradi works with one of the campers. Courtesy photo

It’s now widely accepted that education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) develops creative problem-solving skills that our children will need for success in all sectors of society.

With this in mind, President Obama has lent his support to a movement to include computer programming classes in required high school coursework. Although programming classes are not yet required in local schools, online classes have proliferated in response to demand.

However, most of these courses are dull, repetitive and not geared toward younger students.

Enter Davis Code Camp, which is partnering with Davis Arts Center to offer classes and camps in computer programming specifically designed to engage kids.

Jessica Chabot, a retired physician, and her husband Ray Valdes, a computer analyst with over 30 years of programming experience, founded Davis Code Camp after taking their own kids to “hackathon” competitions sponsored by Google, Yahoo and other big tech companies. The family won a few prizes and found that computing together encouraged creativity, brought them closer — and was loads of fun.

“It was such a positive experience for our family,” Chabot said, “that we wanted to find a way to equip other children and families for the (digital) future that’s coming at them like a speeding train.”

The foundation of Davis Code Camp classes is that the experience has to be fun and contain lots of positive reinforcement.

“Most online programming classes have a 70-percent failure rate,” Chabot said. “We’ve found that kids need lots of personal attention in order to succeed.”

The classes are taught under Chabot and Valdes’ supervision by UC Davis students (or recent graduates), most from the design and computer sciences departments. The ratio of students to teacher is kept around 6 to 1. Parental involvement is encouraged, too.

“Parents are welcome to sit in on the classes and we provide plenty of materials for them to be able to work with their kids at home,” Chabot said. “We know the kids will continue to learn if they have family support.”

Davis Code Camp currently offers two classes at the Arts Center: Scratch Programming & Robotics, for ages 7 to 14, and Minecraft Game Programming, for ages 8-14. Scratch, an introductory programming language developed at MIT, is given a real-world application as the students use it to manipulate actual robots. Sensors allow the robots to be programmed to move, avoid obstacles, change color and make sounds — a perfect recipe for fun, kid-friendly learning.

Minecraft classes are based on a popular online game — there are 40 million users world-wide, Chabot said — in which kids create their own worlds using lego-like building blocks. In the class, kids learn to use more advanced programming languages to modify the game, which most are already familiar with, by creating objects that they can transfer into the game, for example. Being able to enhance their own game experience is a huge reinforcement, Valdes said, because learning advanced skills allows them to affect the game in more ways.

Davis Code Camp classes are inclusive and designed to create a comfortable environment for both boys and girls, Chabot said. It’s an unfortunate fact that girls’ participation in the computer sciences has fallen dramatically — from 37 percent in the 1980s to 18 percent today, according to a recent Associated Press article by Martha Mendoza.

To combat that negative trend, Davis Code Camp recruits both male and female instructors (the current lead instructor happens to be a female graduate of the design department) and stresses collaboration rather than competition. Girls attending the class are given plenty of opportunities to work together, and female participation has been steadily increasing up to about 1/3 of enrolled students, as girls invite their friends and parents realize their daughters’ — as well as their sons’ — needs are accounted for.

Chabot said that she and Ray would consider offering an all-female class if there were enough demand.

“Unfortunately, there is opposition at every level to girls’ participation in technology,” she said, “so special efforts are needed to protect girls’ interests.”

Three new mini-camps for boys and girls have already been added to the Arts Center schedule and began taking enrollments this week: Scratch Programming & Robotics, July 7-11 and Aug. 11-14; and Minecraft Game Programming, July 14-17. So give Davis Arts Center a call at 530-756-4100 to sign up your child — and give him or her a head-start on digital literacy this summer.



  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    Sheriff: Mother ‘sole person responsible’ for infant’s death

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Rifle Team has a blast with competitive shooting

    By Savannah Holmes | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Child abduction case in jury’s hands

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

    Pipeline project will soften water in 2016

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

    Pig out at Farmers Market’s Pig Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1

    Christie to Republicans: No rush to pick 2016 nominee

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Bob Dunning: Colon prep can be hard to swallow

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

    Scouts help fill STEAC’s pantry

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

    Weekend storm drops snow, rain, hail in California

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Still no parole in toddler case

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    City offers wetlands tour

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Parole denied in 1987 killing spree

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Explore Asia at Arboretum storytime

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    MU Games closing in late March

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Assault awareness campaign kicks off

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

    UCD student with meningococcal disease is recovering

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Young patients bond with special stuffies

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Diversity theater group continues creativity workshops

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Radio talk show moves to Mondays

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    UCD student panel to cover anti-Semitism, Islamophobia

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Yolo Food Bank hosts thank-you breakfast on Pig Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9



    Milt Priggee cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: B4

    Rowing: PE as well as life skills

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Police complaint procedures drafted

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Clarifying energy update letter

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Weekly claw pickup necessary

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Mars or ISIS? Similar outcome

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    City may get charged up over energy choices

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

    Speak out

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B5

    Design innovation centers for the 21st century

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

    A new perspective on life

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A7

    Distant water crisis has lessons for Davis

    By Marion Franck | From Page: A7

    Call for study to settle if anesthesia poses risk to babies

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7



    Aggie men get a bounce-back win at Cal Poly

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    The mystery continues: lowly Gauchos upset UCD women

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devils get a soccer win despite finishing woes

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Winning close games is the key for DHS softballers

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Sports briefs: Razo throws well as Aggies get a baseball win

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Defending champion Blue Devils have diamond holes to fill

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Republic FC falls to storied New York Cosmos

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B10







    Yolo Federal Credit Union honored for supporting business education

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    Online store will celebrate, mock People’s Republic of Davis

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A10 | Gallery





    Comics: Sunday, March 1, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B8