Summer CSGC Grant Update: Computer Programming for Campers at the Southampton Fresh Air Home (SFAH)

I want to start by giving a big thank you to the CSGC and the Earl/Mendillo families for awarding me with a grant this summer. As mentioned in my first update, I received a grant to teach an introductory computer science class to campers at the Southampton Fresh Air Home (SFAH), a local summer camp at which I have been volunteering for years. SFAH is a not-for-profit, co-ed, sleep-away summer camp (that also provides year-round activities) for youth with severe physical disabilities, located in Southampton, New York. The class was optional for all campers. I’m delighted to report that many spent their time learning with me!

Spanning the eight, one-week camp “sessions” that SFAH offered this summer (campers could elect to be a part of any number of these week-long sessions), I worked with roughly 50 different campers. The majority of them had never coded before due to various reasons, the most common of which was because their school did not offer it. Fortunately, because of the grant I received from the CSGC, every single camper learned how to write and execute their own computer program; almost all for the first time. Some campers elected to write many programs this summer and plan to continue in the future.

The new laptop, purchased with the grant, was perfect for the majority of the campers to learn how to code and work together as a group to solve problems. The first few weeks of the summer were spent collaboratively learning and problem solving on a projected screen and whiteboard (both also purchased with the grant). Specifically, per requests of the campers, introductory Java and JavaScript were taught on a rotating basis. Once the basics were covered and the campers were feeling comfortable, some started to work individually on the Swift iOS app (designed by Apple). This app provided countless problems for the campers to work on, during which I served as a resource to assist in any way possible. Many campers used the laptop at different times; however, for some, using a computer keyboard was not possible because of their disabilities. Those students used iPads instead.

I taught this class because I wanted all of these campers to try computer science and possibly introduce them to something that they enjoy. I am extremely happy to say that many of the campers went out of their way to tell me how they want to continue coding after our final class. The new laptop will be used throughout the year for virtual camp programming and as an aid to administrative work. Not only did I enjoy my time teaching this class at SFAH, I’ve also made new friends (one from the Pioneer valley!) and learned just how far a positive mindset and an eagerness to learn (something all the campers that I worked with possessed) will take you.

-Ford Holmen ’22

The photos below were taken for SFAH’s website and used in the end-of-summer slideshow.