Inclusive learning at South London Raspberry Jam

Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Grace Owolade-Coombes runs the fantastically inclusive South London Raspberry Jam with her son Femi. In this guest post, she gives us the low-down on how the Jam got started. Enjoy!

Grace and Femi

Grace and Femi Owolade-Coombes

Our Jam has been running for over a year now; we’ve had three really big events and one smaller family hack day. Let me begin by telling you about how the idea of running a Jam arose in the first place.

Around three years ago, I read about how coding was going to be part of the curriculum in primary and secondary schools and, as a teacher in the FE sector, I was intrigued. As I also had a young and inquisitive son, who was at primary school at the time, I felt that we should investigate further.

National STEM Centre

Grace visited the National STEM Learning Centre in York for a course which introduced her to coding.

I later attended a short course at the National STEM Learning Centre in York, during which one of the organisers told me about the Raspberry Pi Foundation; he suggested I come to a coding event back at the Centre a few weeks later with my family. We did, and Femi loved the Minecraft hack.

Note from Alex: not the actual Minecraft hack but I’ll be having words with our resource gurus because this would be brilliant!

The first Raspberry Jam we attended was in Southend with Andy Melder and the crew: it showed us just how welcoming the Jam community can be. Then I was lucky enough to attend Picademy, which truly was a transformative experience. Ben Nuttall showed me how to tweet photographs with the Pi, which was the beginning of me using Twitter. I particularly loved Clive Beale’s physical computing workshop which I took back and delivered to Femi.

Grace Owolade-Coombes with Carrie Anne Philbin

Picademy gave Grace the confidence to deliver Raspberry Pi training herself.

After Picademy, I tweeted that I was now a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator and immediately got a request from Dragon Hall, Convent Garden to run a workshop – I didn’t realise they meant in three days’ time! Femi and I bit the bullet and ran our first physical computing workshop together. We haven’t looked back since.

Festival of Code Femi

Femi went on to join the Festival of Code, which he loved.

Around this time, Femi was attending a Tourettes Action support group, where young people with Tourette’s syndrome, like him, met up. Femi wanted to share his love of coding with them, but he felt that they might be put off as it can be difficult to spend extended amounts of time in public places when you have tics. He asked if we could set up a Jam that was inclusive: it would be both autism- and Tourette’s syndrome-friendly. There was such a wealth of support, advice, and volunteers who would help us set up that it really wasn’t a hard decision to make.

Femi Owolade-Coombes

Grace and Femi set up an Indiegogo campaign to help fund their Jam.

We were fortunate to have met Marc Grossman during the Festival of Code: with his amazing skills and experience with Code Club, we set up together. For our first Jam, we had young coding pioneers from the community, such as Yasmin Bey and Isreal Genius, to join us. We were also blessed with David Whale‘s company and Kano even did a workshop with us. There are too many amazing people to mention.

South London Jam

Grace and Femi held the first South London Raspberry Jam, an autism- and Tourette’s syndrome-friendly event for five- to 15-year-olds, at Deptford Library in October 2016, with 75 participants.

We held a six-session Code Club in Catford Library followed by a second Jam in a local community centre, focusing on robotics with the CamJam EduKit 3, as well as the usual Minecraft hacks.

Our third Jam was in conjunction with Kano, at their HQ, and included a SEN TeachMeet with Computing at School (CAS). Joseph Birks, the inventor of the Crumble, delivered a great robot workshop, and Paul Haynes delivered a Unity workshop too.

Family Hack Day

Grace and Femi’s latest event was a family hack day in conjunction with the London Connected Learning Centre.

Femi often runs workshops at our Jams. We try to encourage young coders to follow in Femi’s footsteps and deliver sessions too: it works best when young people learn from each other, and we hope the confidence they develop will enable them to help their friends and classmates to enjoy coding too.

Inclusivity, diversity, and accessibility are at the heart of our Jams, and we are proud to have Tourettes Action and Ambitious about Autism as partners.

Tourettes Action on Twitter

All welcome to this event in London SAT, 12 DEC 2015 AT 13:00 2nd South London Raspberry Jam 2015 Bellingham… https://t.co/TPYC9Ontot

Now we are taking stock of our amazing journey to learn about coding, and preparing to introduce it to more people. Presently we are looking to collaborate with the South London Makerspace and the Digital Maker Collective, who have invited Femi to deliver robot workshops at Tate Modern. We are also looking to progress to more project-based activities which fit with the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Pioneers challenges.

Femi Astro Pi

South London Raspberry Jam has participated in both Pi Wars and Astro Pi.

Femi writes about all the events we attend or run: see hackerfemo.com or check out our website and sign up to our mailing list to keep informed. We are just about to gather a team for the Pioneers project, so watch out for updates.