Guest Post :: Family Code Nights in Maine

This post was written by Jonathan Graham, Elementary Digital Learning Specialist at Maine Department of Education. To host your own Family Code Night, visit mmsa.org/familycodenight.

“Family Code Night” is a nationally recognized event that has been championed by MMSA (Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance) in our state as a community activity for schools to organize during Computer Science Education Week. They focus on the elementary grade level and compliment “Hour of Code” efforts that are often happening during the school day. I was fortunate to attend Family Code Nights in Brunswick, Readfield, Durham and Lewiston this year. Another eight school events are registered through MMSA. Many happened in the two weeks prior to the winter vacation, but others will happen in 2020!
Tweet from Allison Braley of Brunswick Schools
These evening events can take on many different shapes and sizes, but the organizers are clearly working to use an approach that fits best with their school community. Technology integrator Ashley Lacroix coordinated two events for two elementary schools in Brunswick and had over fifty in attendance at each implementing a successful Family Code Night format.

RSU38’s Maranacook Middle School hosted an event for fourth and fifth graders throughout the district. The night was successfully run by their student tech team, called the “iTeam” headed up by middle school tech integrator Denise Churchill with additional support from elementary tech integrator Paul McGovern. They also utilized the Family Code Night structure. It was a great way to bring students in from the four different elementary schools within the district.
Tweet from Paul McGovern of RSU 38
The Family Code Night materials and format are a wonderful resource for schools, especially those trying it out for the first time. It can be a great way to engage your parents and community, demonstrate ways technology is being used within our schools and shed some light on computer science and coding. For those organizers who have experience with planning evening events or who have run the Family Code Night before, there is always the potential for a “bigger and better” event.

Durham Community School made their Family Code Night into a station-based version after the success of an Engineering Night last spring. STEM teacher Nicole Hewes organized a number of activities that involved web-based apps (Scratch and code.org), robots (BeeBots, Dash and Sphero) and “unplugged” activities. The school cafeteria housed this event and it was an exciting atmosphere.
Tweet from Allison Lytton of Lewiston schools
Computer Science for Lewiston Public Schools logoLewiston Schools also created their own event and used fourteen classrooms, their STEM lab and gym to host over a dozen sessions with accessible content and activities for students from PreK through middle school. The Connors Elementary School was the destination for students from across district’s six elementary schools and teachers from multiple schools and grade levels to come together for the evening. Many rooms ran stations on computers with popular themes like Minecraft and Frozen. Nesrene Griffin’s station tied together Pokemon and Ozobots, Sarah Cowles had students programming Edison robots and in the gym Sarah Irish and Allison Avery engaged the youngest attendees with Code Hopper! At the end of the night, there was pizza for the 130 in attendance as well as raffle items including robots, Lego kits and many books! Lewiston’s Computer Science coordinator Alicia Biggs and the CSforLPS initiative is doing wonderful work across Maine’s second largest school district and this was one of several events for the school year.

Reach out to Jonathan Graham!
Email: Jonathan.M.Graham@maine.gov
Twitter: @mistergraham4

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