Greenwood business Code Ninjas teaches kids coding skills

Kids in Greenwood as young as five are learning how to code and build video games at a new coding franchise.

Code Ninjas is the world’s largest kid’s coding franchise with locations across the United States, including in Greenwood at 1259 N. State Road 135. Code Ninjas has multiple programs for different skills and age groups including Code Ninjas Create, Code Ninjas JR, Camps and other events.

At any given time, Code Ninjas has about 70 to 90 students in the program, said Joshua Grow, local owner. The self-paced programs are designed to teach kids coding fundamentals through play and interactive, game-based learning. Each program is designed to follow the Computer Science Teachers Association Computer Science Standards.

The Code Ninjas JR program is for ages five through seven while the Code Ninjas Create program is designed for kids ages eight through 14. Code Ninjas Education Path allows kids to work at their own pace and graduate to different levels. Each level is represented by a colored belt. There are nine colored belts that students can advance through.

Grow is a programmer himself and has worked with the same programs the kids learn in the program. Seeing kids learn through the program is rewarding.

“Coding is not something everybody can do and when a kid that age, say 10-year-old kid, can go in there and complete something that is fairly complex, we always see those really excited expressions, our faces light up, it’s a big thing,” Grow said.

For the first belts, kids learn coding concepts and begin developing projects through block-based coding. While working toward intermediate belts students learn to write code with JavaScript.

On the road to a black belt, students learn to design their own videogame using the same platform as professionals. Students come up with the game concept and build it on their own. Once finished, the video game is published and anyone can play it, Grow said.

Even after they earn all the belts, kids can continue programming with “going gold” where they can work on their projects and have people to bounce their ideas off of, he said.

Only one student has completed the black belt program so far, but in about three months, they will have their second Code Ninjas Black belt, Grow said. The program is self-paced, but it can take several years to complete the program.

Jude Moore, 9, enjoys learning how to build programming for robots and video games, he said. Going to Code Ninjas feels “peaceful” for him. Moore couldn’t remember the first thing he built at Code Ninjas, but he remembers the relief he felt after finally completing his first project. He felt relief because he had been through so many trials and errors before success, he said.

“It’s like a break from other things,” Moore said.

Kids can attend up to eight one-hour sessions per month at Code Ninjas. There are two different class models depending on the skill level of the student and if they have any knowledge of programming. For example, one model is 45 minutes of coding and 15 minutes of a different activity. Some kids choose to opt out of the activity and spend the whole hour coding, Grow said.

Code Ninjas also has opportunities for students to play games such as Roblox and Minecraft. They have their own Minecraft Realm where students can play with other Ninjas at any time, Grow said.

Code Ninjas also hosts a Parents Night Out at least once a month. The Parents Night Out programming varies, but it is usually held for three hours on a Friday or Saturday night. Most recently, Code Ninjas hosted a Battle Bots competition with the students.

Students programmed a robot to complete different track patterns and obstacles for Parents Night Out. Director Chris Curiel spent the day prior 3D printing wheels for the pre-built robots to make sure things were ready to go for the Bot Battle.

“We try to give them something fun to do and we try to have some element of learning,” Curiel said. “They’re definitely more on the fun side, it’s like an 80/20 split. You’re gonna learn something, but you’re gonna have a lot of fun.”

Code Ninjas offers a variety of summer camp programming as well. The summer camps are about three hours for five days and include different camps such as Become a Youtuber, Code your Own Arcade, Web Development and stop motion animation.

The program isn’t necessarily setting out to create the next generation of computer programmers but rather to teach students logical reasoning and critical thinking skills through fun and interactive learning, Grow said.

“Kids that have that are going to have a major advantage over the kids that don’t,” Grow said. “That’s one of the things we really try to push on kids and really try to help them understand as they’re learning this program it’s like that will apply to all aspects of life, even if you have nothing to do with tech.”

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