If video games seem to be the only thing that can grab and hold your child’s attention, we may have found something for you. Parents looking for a new way to stimulate their children’s brains outside of school and prepare them for the technology-based workforce of the future should look no further than Code Ninjas, the new after-school program that opened a location in Irvine this past March. Code Ninjas brings a fresh approach to teaching children of all ages the intricacies of computer coding, with a curriculum tooled and refined by the franchise’s three years of experience in after-school education in over 100 locations across the United States.
The Irvine Code Ninjas location marks the franchise’s entrance into Orange County. It is is owned and operated by local residents and siblings Jonathan and Josephine Cheung, along with Josephine’s husband, Arlington So.
Mr. Cheung moved to the United States from Guam in 2005, and proceeded to graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in business and consulting experience in technology. After co-founding two tech start-up companies, Cheung looked to continue his passion for tech by opening this Code Ninjas branch. Besides his personal connection to Irvine as his home, Cheung felt Irvine was a perfect place for the franchise.
“We thought Irvine was great to build the kind of high-caliber team we were looking for,” says Cheung. “Irvine is where you find people with that kind of caliber [in tech] who are also looking to give back.” Cheung sites UCI as a huge advantage to their program, as most of their instructors, or “senseis,” as they are referred to in Code Ninja fashion, are UCI students looking to give back to the Irvine community.
Built for children between the ages of 7 and 14, the curriculum of Code Ninjas is based in dojo culture, with “ninja” and “sensei” used in place of “student” and “teacher.” As ninjas progress through their coding education, they receive colored wristbands that serve symbolically as belts in the martial arts world. What separates Code Ninjas from most after-school activities, however, is that their curriculum is not run in a class-based system, which is an attractive feature for most busy parents out there. Families don’t need to rush to get their kids to Code Ninjas promptly at a specific time, because learning in Code Ninjas is done on a totally individual basis. Young ninjas can arrive whenever they are able, seven days a week, so long as they have 1-2 hours to be able to fulfill their education for the day.
This individuality also prevents children from getting frustrated or bored from lessons that are moving too fast or too slow, as they are in total control of the speed of their learning. Each level ninjas reach is made up of mini-quizzes and checkpoints throughout, to ensure that students are maintaining the information they are learning, and lessons always come with the option of “brain breaks” for students, to keep them from getting overwhelmed. But while the curriculum is self-paced, it is not self-taught, as the program’s senseis are always around to provide instruction and encouragement.
Most importantly, however, the ninjas of Code Ninjas get to learning coding in probably the most exciting way possible: they get to literally MAKE video games. Within their programs, young ninjas create phone apps that they can actually publish (and even sell). “Parents want their children to learn the critical skills that they’ll need in the future, but it also has to be fun for kids. Code Ninjas has found that sweet spot where kids have fun and parents see results, and we’re truly excited to bring our unique concept to Irvine and surrounding communities,” says Code Ninjas CEO David Graham.
When an app is complete, parents can access them from their own phones, so that every day spent in class a child can proudly showcase the work that they have done. The curriculum even expands further outside the realm of straightforward computer coding, as along their path students also learn lessons in robotics, drone technology and other STEM activities. “I wish I had Code Ninjas growing up because it provides children vital skills to pursue their dreams and unlock their unlimited capacity to learn,” says Mr. Cheung. “For younger students in Irvine, Code Ninjas will open the door to opportunities and ensure they are not intimidated by the words ‘STEM’ and ‘coding.’”
Code Ninjas will be hosting an Open House on Saturday, May 18, from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., where they will demo some of the game building and robotics covered in their courses. They will also be providing both half-day and full-day weekly summer camps.
For more information about Code Ninjas, check out their website at www.codeninjas.com/locations/ca-irvine or call 949-679-2633.