Want to Teach Kids to Code? Send 'Em to a 'Hack Jam'

A new initiative in Los Angeles is providing a venue for up-and-coming nerds to tinker with technology.


We know that if we want kids to be more than consumers of technology, we have to give them the tools they need to build things themselves—and that means teaching them coding. But if most schools aren't actually teaching coding to kids, how are they supposed to learn it? Enter the Hack Jam, a fun way to make digital literacy and hacking accessible, social, and fun.

What's it like to be at a Hack Jam? Last Saturday, three members of GOOD's product team—you’ll see our senior UI designer Doris Yee in the video above—joined up with other designers and developers and headed to Los Angeles' Wildwood School to serve as mentors at the LA Youth Hack Jam. The public event, which was inspired by the Mozilla Summer Code Party and facilitated by the Los Angeles Makerspace Working Group, attracted over 100 kids between the ages of 5 and 18-years-old and their parents.

Depending on their ability coming in the door, participants were able to learn tech basics like how to upload a video to YouTube as well as lessons on programming languages. Yee says she "taught kids who were already getting their hands dirty with mobile apps, gaming prototypes, and gadgets."

Wildwoods physics teacher, Ariel Levi Simons, described the Hack Jam as "a huge meet and greet for our up-and-coming nerds." Indeed, there's no doubt getting to work on DIY projects in a low-stakes, fun atmosphere under the tutelage of professionals in the field goes a long way toward encouraging kids to get involved.

To keep the learning going, the Makerspace group wants to make the Hack Jam an ongoing thing in the city. To that end they're looking for an open a space in L.A. that "enthusiasts of all ages" can come to and "learn how to make cool stuff." Let's hope they find one—and that the Hack Jam concept keeps spreading—so that our kids learn the tech skills they need.

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

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"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

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We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

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