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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Ninja Coders

Nov 05, 2017 12:00AM

Walk into the Petaluma Library on a Wednesday afternoon, and you’ll hear a quiet chorus of fingers tapping keyboards, the sound of kids learning coding at CoderDojo.

CoderDojo classes teach kids how to code using basic programs like Scratch and JavaScript and then move on to more complex lessons. There’s even some gamified learning, in the form of Code Combat, thrown in for fun.

Mom of two and owner of Maker Petaluma, Candace Stump, cofounded the nonprofit program with her husband, Barry, a software architect, and John Crowley, co-owner of Aqus Cafe in Petaluma and software engineer, in an effort to demystify the world of technology for kids.

“My dad was a computer science professor so I always grew up…. playing with [computers]. They weren’t magical and they weren’t oracles or anything, they were just things you played with,” Stump says.

Not only did she hope to make coding accessible to children, Stump also wanted to teach lessons in a communal environment where students could develop soft skills, including the ability to share ideas and learn from each other, and accept another’s point of view gracefully.

Because “if you don’t know how to do any of these, you aren’t going to get anywhere in the professional world,” she says.

She chose to hold classes at a library because “it is a quintessential American public resource. And it’s important for people to understand that libraries are more than places that we get books,” she continues. “Libraries are living, breathing organisms.”

Stump finds volunteer software developers and academics to teach the classes, which are free.

“These guys can show up having had a whole day of hands-on experience with this stuff, and then they can mentor kids who are interested in that material,” she says.

Since it’s inception two and a half years ago, CoderDojo has grown in popularity.

“When we started…we had maybe 15 kids. … Last year we had 90 people on the waiting list,” Stump says.

With so much interest, a new dojo, at the Rincon Valley Library in Santa Rosa, is being formed. Stump is looking for new volunteers to teach at it. Contact her at [email protected] if you are interested. And go to to find out how to register your child for CoderDojo classes.