What is Creative Coding?
Creative Coding is an mission-driven, family-owned company whose goal is to be the very best IN THE WORLD at one thing: Teaching young kids to learn how to code.
Our Founder Eric Fredrickson offered our first summer camps in June 2013 with a revolutionary idea- that it should be FUN to learn coding, and kids should teach themselves, by writing their own video games, based on their own ideas. Since then, the entire “industry” has tried to follow this “write games” formula, but without the intense teacher training we invest in, well… let’s just say, our students are generally a lot happier and learn a lot more in Creative Coding classes than all the imitators that came after us. Pre-Covid, we served over 40+ public and private schools around Seattle with our after-school classes, and summer camps.
In response to the COVID emergency school lockdown in March 2020, we instantly transformed our programs and transitioned both classes and camps online, without missing a single day of class.
We were proud of being ready and able to do that, and supportive of that initial pre-spread lockdown, which saved a lot of lives here in Seattle, the US’s “patient zero” city. Kudos to our excellent public health authorities and political leaders. As a city, we did well! But it was a scary, strange and challenging time.
One thing we proved to the world was that remote teaching works very well for this subject. Again, we were the first, and everybody else followed as they discovered Zoom. (Yes, we WERE the first to use Zoom to teach coding, 2 years prior to the pandemic with a class of Hawaiian home schooled kids! Aloha, alumni!)
However, it was a long wait for the vaccine, and for it to be safe to get back together. Our company almost went out of business when school went virtual in the fall of 2020 and “screen fatigue” set in. Only a few of our most interested coding students stuck with it during that time, and we had to cut everything down to survive. Thanks to the CAREs act, the support of our remaining teaching staff, who took a huge pay cut, and our loyal parents and kids who kept taking classes with us through 2.5 years of being locked out of schools.. we survived!
And now we’re back! From outer space! No wait, that’s that Gloria Gaynor song.
We’re back with in person after school classes! And Summer Camps! And you’ve walked in to find us happy with a smile upon our face! No wait, I’m off again, sorry, karaoke instincts took over.
So, in 2023, we’ve ramped back up with 20+ local Seattle Schools. We still Zoom! Online 1-on-1 or “family sized” tutoring classes, by request, can be customized to your child’s age & abilities (email us if you’re interested in that), but our in-person after school classes are the beating heart of our company, and that’s how we serve our community.
We’re still local, still a small company, and we still put quality and mission over profits and growth. We like it that way, and so do our kids and parents.
“Founder Dad” Eric Fredrickson developed The Creative Coding Method to teach and inspire kids in this age group through these core principles.
- A friendly, safe environment for all genders. Boys and girls and every variation on the gender spectrum must feel welcome and safe. It’s been the core of our training from the very beginning. Everything starts with kids feeling safe and being kind to each other.
- Fun! The most important thing for success is to make sure the kids are having fun. This keeps them fully engaged with their own creative project. We celebrate successes AND mistakes, and cheer each other on. It’s all a part of their coding adventure. If they’re having fun as they create, we literally cannot stop them from learning!
- Creativity. Every child has ideas. Our approach teaches coding like a box of crayons. Look at all these great tools! What can you make with them? Let’s try some stuff and find out! Once they’re excited about their idea, we help them bring it to life. No assignment we could give them will ever be more exciting than your child’s own ideas. It’s harder to teach this way, but better for your child. Project-based learning WORKS. Coding, like language, does NOT have to be learned sequentially. We take advantage of that. So every session is a journey of discovery, led by your child’s own curiosity & ideas.
- Teaching Kids to Teach Themselves. Our teachers are trained to see non-verbal signs of frustration. (this works, even over Zoom. We make “Cameras on” a requirement) Our teachers are trained to ask questions and give hints, avoiding direct answers as much as possible, so your child learns the “real coding” process that all professional coders would recognize: We guess and try things and debug *lots of debugging!* until the code finally works. It’s a little bit frustrating at times, but that’s they key to unlocking that feeling of ELATION when they finally get it working! Teaching your child to teach themselves takes time. Sometimes it takes a year or even two, before they gain enough confidence to fail boldly, knowing they can recover and untangle even the worst bugs. Others may get there in a few weeks, then have a setback. Few people learn “in a straight line” but each student gets there in the end. The goal is always self-sufficient learning. Once kids truly realize they CAN learn on their own, the entire universe of coding languages is open to them. Because they same method they’ve learned to master coding in Scratch, will work in java, python, or any new language that comes along.
- Persistence. It turns out the Coding a game is perhaps the best tool for teaching the most valuable skill of all: Persistence. The visual rewards are so great when something works, and at first we make it pretty easy for then. But soon they realize that Coding is hard. So then they have to work again, before feeling that joy and elation they crave from success. Coding for kids is a rapid, iterative cycle of emotion, and that’s they key to teaching persistence. Your child will fail before they succeed – but it feels incredible when do succeed! So then they want to try again, something a little more challenging. Our teachers give students guidance during this emotional cycle and help them navigate those emotional barriers. Our goal is that your kids learn to get excited about facing a tough problem because they’ve developed that taste for success and learned to associate the arrival of a challenge with the imminent feeling of success that is just on the other side of that challenge. And what a valuable lesson that is. In fact, persistence is actually the most important thing we teach. Coding their own games is like controlling their own destiny. And that’s why coding just happens to be the perfect vehicle for your child to learn this all-important life skill.
It’s hard to believe now, but in May 2013 when I looked for classes for my daughter to learn coding, I found only 1 company who offered classes for kids her age (8 at the time), and ALL their teachers were men. Also, nearly all their students were boys.
This mirrored my experience as a software guy in the 90’s, so I was not surprised, just frustrated. At that time, I did not know about the wonderful “Girls Who Code” foundation, which was just getting started. So I decided to teach her myself. My approach was to teach her the way I’d taught myself to code as a teenager: By writing her own video game. We had so much fun, I rediscovered by love for coding. And for teaching. I decided to offer a coding class to her girl scout troop and started talking to the other moms, one of which was a teacher. She said “This should be a summer camp. nobody’s teaching kids this young, and I’ve got sons, too. Why can’t they attend?” So I sent out an email to all my tech industry friends, asking: Would you like me to teach your kids to code? The answer was an enthusiastic yes, followed by “can we tell our friends?”
Right away, in fact, at the end of the first week of summer camp, I realized “this is it. This is what I was born to do. I’ve found my calling
By the end of that first summer, I’d filled 5 weeks of classes and was exhausted but exhilarated. And I’d solidified my philosophy and approach. Now aware of “girls who code” and their wonderful work, I saw my role (as a man) to approach the issue I was trying to solve for my daughter from the “all gender” side. With the boys into the program alongside the girls, (and including everyone in between) I knew they’d all grow up more understanding and tolerant, to make their future world better than the one I was currently living in as an adult. A saw firsthand how we changed attitudes those first few years, as we expanded to each new school and gradually taught the parents (who were living in the same world and grew up in the same biases we all learned) that these classes were great for ALL their kids, not just the boys. We quickly reached near gender parity in our classes
At the end of the summer. a parent invited me to teach coding after school through their PTA, (Another “world’s first” at the elementary school level) which led to a second school, which led to me having to hire additional teachers, and train them in my approach, which led to more schools.. By the end of the first year, we had the core group of people who would grow up with the company, becoming teachers, trainers, and ultimately managers. Around 2015, we had an opportunity to sell the company, go big, go national, and all that, and a lot of people reading my website (#1 on google for “kids coding” for those crucial first 3 years) with my exhaustively detailed philosophies.
In the end, after a lot of discussion with my family, fellow teachers, and friends, we decided to leave the “scaling up” to others, and maintain quality as a small, local, community-based company, putting quality and people above profit and growth. And though we still grew, it was not as frantic, and I do not regret that choice for one second. I was able to spend those cherished years focusing on my daughter and family, who grew up fast. (Mom & Dad- you were right!) I’m proud to say, she’s now an Eagle Scout, and a Girl Scout Gold Award winner as well as a talented artist! And yes she can still code when she wants to. Proud Dad hopes she doesn’t notice I’ve updated this page and am flexing a bit. Can’t help it.
So, it’s been a great 10 years, and counting. My fellow teachers and I have helped over 10,000 kids discover the joy of coding. We currently serve 20+ public and private schools around Seattle with our after-school classes. We also offer limited summer camps in Seattle to the lucky few who happen to live here. And, having been the first in the world to use Zoom to teach coding to kids (preceding all competitors by at least a year) and being locked out of schools longer than almost any other district (2.5 years!) We became very, very good at that too. Our Zoom teaching remains strong. Now that we’re back in person and rebuilding our after-school teaching staff, we don’t emphasize our online classes as much, but we still offer them, and they are amazing.
I’m so proud of our team and everything we’ve accomplished and the challenges we’ve overcome over the years, that I could go on for pages more. But I’ll resist. Where are we weak? Because no company can be good at everything, it’s hard enough just being the best in the world at ONE thing. something has to suffer, right? Well…
Suffice to say, we are TEACHERS FIRST. Marketers…? Eh, not so much. Which is why this website is only just starting to get whipped back into shape. We’ll get there. In the meantime, if you’d like to know more, or you’re a great marketing mom or dad and you’d like to help, just email us at email@example.com.
A real, live human will respond.
Yeah, we still work that way. Even though we’re totally playing with AI tools like everybody. We are coders, after all. These tools are pretty sweet!
But when it comes to interacting with humans, we’d rather… respond ourselves. As humans do. We actually LIKE talking to people. Why would we want to give that up? To increase profits, you say? Um.. No. that’s not the goal. Never has been. It’s teaching. And helping people. Kids, and parents. Changing the world. THAT’S the goal.
Amazing, I know.
Our Social Mission
Correct the gender imbalance in the tech industry the long, slow, sure way: By teaching kids from a young age to code, with all-gender classes, so ALL kids grow up knowing that coding, (and technology, and math) is for *everyone*. By normalizing this world in their childhood, they change the world each year, as they grow up.
10 years on: Yep. This works.
What we’ve seen over the last 10 years is that our initial thesis was correct. This works. They key is to create that environment which supports and is friendly to all genders. As they get older, kids carry this reality with them into middle school, then high school, and beyond. Thankfully, we’re not the only ones working on this problem, and our society is moving (fitfully and unevenly, it’s true, but still moving) towards more tolerance and acceptance. What we can measure is what happens in the middle and high schools that our elementary school students end up in. In those schools, teachers report a surprising and sustaining increase in young women in their computer science electives. And just as importantly, the young men in these classes are not alarmed by this. There’s less bullying or feeling threatened, because they all grew up coding together in our after-school classes. This is normal. The girls grew up thinking of themselves as coders, as tech-savvy as anyone, and the buys grew up knowing that when they get stuck with a tough coding bug, their best bet is to ask the girl next to them for help.
I have long wished that we could expand this program to ALL elementary schools. We have some ideas on that, and if you want to help, contact us. For now, we’re growing as fast as we can without compromising quality.
The Problem: Gender imbalance and Gender Bias in the tech industry.
In 2013 when we started, it was clear that girls needed a more supportive environment to learn coding. It was equally clear that boys were “half the problem.” Men were bullying women out of STEM-related classes and fields at all levels and ages, from Jr. High, to High School, to College, and in the workplace. I heard this firsthand from every single female Computer Science students and graduate I hired during those first 10 years, without exception. Each one told me that they’d been pulled aside (at least once) by a male professor or TA, and told that they should get out of the field. That Computers was “not a good fit” or “the wrong field” or even “too hard” for them. Can you imagine? How horrible. I knew I couldn’t change the attitude of those incumbent men with their unconscious or conscious bias and misogyny. But what I could do was out-last them, age them out, and change the world from the bottom up, by starting with kids my daughter’s age and younger. So that’s what I did. Ten years so far, and it’s working. Changing the world is hard. It does take decades, and lots of people, but it can be done, if you start.
Saying it the nice way
When children of all genders study STEM subjects together, it means they’ll carry that reality forward with them as the grow, as a new benchmark for what’s “normal.” As they grow up over the ensuing decades, that will inevitably shift the workplace and our world to be a better, more welcoming place for all genders. We focus on making coding approachable and fun for every student in order to build their confidence, passion for persistence, and interest in the field, along with the social skills and collaborative spirit they need to change the face of our industry, together.