By Lisa Mockel
When eight-year-old Jack Fisher of Ossining showed an interest in animation and began creating his own basic video games, his mom, Tina, took to Google, searching for classes to help take her son’s budding passion to the next level. She was thrilled to find Code Ninjas had recently opened.
Code Ninjas, the world’s largest and fastest growing children’s coding franchise, was founded in 2016 by professional software developer David Graham. It offers classes in computer coding and problem-solving skills by creating video games using Scratch, Roblox, Minecraft and other platforms.
Utilizing a nine-belt curriculum inspired by the martial arts to teach children ages 7 to 14, Code Ninjas offers flexible online and in-person coding and STEM programs taught by instructors known as “code senseis.”
By the time a child finishes the program, they will publish an app in an app store. The new Mount Kisco dojo is located at 41 S. Moger Ave.
The independently-owned franchise, which launched virtually in September, opened its doors in late November. For owners, Caryna Wong, the executive director, and her husband Corwin Yu, the venture made sense. Wong has a background in information technology and Yu is a cryptocurrency trading systems developer who has coded recreationally for years.
“We hope to provide a fun way for kids to develop their analytical abilities and critical thinking skills as well as coding skills in an environment that fosters community and cooperation,” said Wong, who formerly worked at IBM. “Our Code Ninjas is the perfect opportunity for Corwin and I to use our tech backgrounds to help kids enhance these skills and develop resilience in a fun way without the pressure of a grading scale.”
Coding has been called “the literacy of the 21st century.” There’s now a huge need for a generation to not only understand technology but know how it works.
“In 10 years, coding is going to be required, it’s going to be literacy,” Wong said, adding that about one million U.S. coding jobs go unfilled each year because of a lack of qualified people. “If (kids) don’t understand coding at all, the logic behind it and how to interact with those interfaces, it’s going to be a problem. Everybody should be doing it.”
Fisher, a major Minecraft fan, is currently taking in-person classes for two hours once a week. His dad, Ron, is pleased with the program.
“He could easily stay there for hours and would be overjoyed if he could go more than once a week,” Ron Fisher said. “Remote learning has taken over our lives and to say it’s challenging to keep our children engaged is an understatement. At Code Ninjas, we feel that Jack is getting a head start in the world of coding and computer design. Since my wife and I know nothing about it, these specialized classes allow us to nurture his interest and provide him with a knowledge base from which he can excel.”
“In order to execute an idea, (the students) have to figure it out, they have to draw it, create it. There’s a lot of creative problem-solving involved,” Wong said of the skills acquired through Code Ninjas’ classes. “These are skills they’re not teaching in a lot of schools. Some schools have after-school programs in coding but it’s not required that we’ve seen so far.”
Another local parent, Suzanne Yeager, said Code Ninjas allows her 10-year-old son Graeme to socialize with his friends online, outside of school. He is currently taking the Introduction to Scratch course via Zoom twice a week.
“We love the convenience,” Yeager said. “The instructors make each lesson different and engaging. Sometimes the students learn to design video games and at the holidays they each designed a party complete with décor and music. The students love sharing these builds with each other and the instructors are so knowledgeable and a lot of fun.”
The 1,200-square-foot dojo is bright, well-lit and desks are six feet apart. It is regularly de-sanitized. Social distancing and masks are required. While there, students can also participate in other STEM activities including circuit building and robotics.
This month, Code Ninjas will be launching a new in-person, completely visual curriculum, Code Ninjas Jr., for budding readers ages 5-9. It combines storytelling and game-building with hands-on projects.
The Mount Kisco Code Ninjas plans to offer summer and year-round camps, Parents Night Out evenings and birthday parties. It also provides a free first game-building session. There are convenient drop-in hours on weeknights and weekends.
A grand opening was scheduled for Jan. 23, but Wong decided to postpone the event because of COVID-19 concerns. Meanwhile, Code Ninjas will host hackathons and other prize-winning contests and free Hour of Code days, which would have been part of the grand opening activities.
For more information, call 914-920-9898 or visit www.codeninjas.com/ny-mount-kisco.