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Q&A with Melanie Meade, volunteer mentor at CMEE

Thanks to the Century Arts Foundation, the Long Island Community Foundation, and proceeds from our Summer Fête fundraiser, CMEE is presenting the East End’s only bilingual Coding Club. However, the program would not be possible without the incredible efforts of our volunteer mentors. One of the mentors, Melanie Meade, has been contributing her time to the program since last year. You may recognize her from the South Fork Natural History Museum (SOFO) where she serves as the Education and Outreach Coordinator. In between her many school field trips and helping to prepare for Peconic Family Fun Day, Melanie was kind enough to share her perspective on CMEE’s coding program.

How did you first start volunteering with the Coding Program at CMEE?

Melanie teaching at SOFO

I heard about the class through word of mouth. I was very interested in learning the coding program myself. I had done some early coding when it was just called computer programming. This is different. We do “block coding,” because the first thing you learn is to drag and drop blocks. It’s great for kids because they can easily understand the concept of building blocks. I reached out to Leah [Oppenheimer, CMEE’s Director of Community Programs] and she graciously encouraged me to get involved.

Has the coding program influenced any of your work at SOFO?

Coding has definitely enhanced what I do at SOFO. I develop STEAM (science, technology engineering, art and math) programs and participating in coding at CMEE has given me a bunch of new ideas. I’m now taking a more integrated approach, exploring how engineering and machines have their parallels in nature. For example, I’m presenting a workshop at SOFO where children create a paper butterfly and then build their own gear box to make the butterfly move.

Has anything surprised you about the coding program?

Nothing has really surprised me, but I think the kids were surprised about the process. They assumed they would be coding by themselves but they’ve realized that it’s much more of a team approach. For many of the kids, this has been their very first exposure to computers. And they are probably the ones who benefited most from the program because not only have they learned coding, their self-confidence has grown because they’ve accomplished something they never did before.

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