Urban Explorations: Coding, Community and Coffee


We moved to Vancouver a year ago, not really knowing anyone and full of ideas for the next step in our professional development. We are teachers, and in the past year we had spent a lot of time planning and facilitating workshops on girls and tech and trying to learn to code ourselves. Learning to code can be a long journey, particularly when you are learning online without a physical community of learners and mentors to support you.

As we began to explore Vancouver and all that there is to do here, we discovered that the city is home to some incredible learning and coding collaborations, communities and opportunities for children, adults and youth. Whether you want to learn, to mentor, to volunteer or to just talk with others, these organizations create cultures that support safe spaces, diversity, innovation and community in the tech world.

Ladies Learning Code
The first Ladies Learning Code event we attended was a screening of CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap. After the film and panel discussion, we talked with Zoe Alexander, an Operations Lead at LLC to learn more about the organization.

Photo Credit: Sanjeet Photography

What They Do:

  • Teach workshops camps, and clubs to adults, teens, and children in HTML, CSS, Javascript, Ruby, WordPress, Python, web design and more
  • Offer scholarships and pay-what-you-can policies so that cost is not a barrier for participants
  • Ensure there is at least 1 mentor for every 4 learners
  • Send a Code Mobile van across the country, teaching kids to code
  • Screen films and host panel discussions
  • Coordinate National Learn to Code Day events
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Why They Do It

  • To encourage women and youth to become passionate builders and not just consumers of technology.
  • To facilitate hands-on, social, and collaborative learning
  • To promote equity and cultivate talent in underrepresented groups

Most mentors are “motivated by just wanting to help people curious about and new to code,” and most students want to, “figure out how code fits into their lives.” Zoe

“I loved pitching our ideas,” Ella, girls learning code participant.

Ways to Participate:

  • Attend a workshop, boot camp, course or event
  • Bring a child or a parent with you
  • Volunteer or Mentor.  See website for details
  • Donate. Donations pay for scholarships, trainers and equipment.
  • Sponsor. Businesses can partner up or sponsor events and classes.
  • Hire a Participant. Businesses can post tech jobs on their website.

Coffee Connection
We met Zoe at Timbertrain on W. Cordova. The coffee is strong, delicious and carefully crafted. The space is designed perfectly for working alone and for talking with friends.

Chocolate Chip Affogato

Lighthouse Labs
While attending a Ladies Learning Code HTML workshop in July, we found out about Lighthouse Labs. After taking a tour of the space, we sat down with Rebecca, a Marketing Manager to talk about what Lighthouse Labs does to create community.

What They Do

  • Teach introductory courses and bootcamps in Web and iOS Development
  • Host Demo Days where graduates show off final projects over pizza and beer
  • Sponsor Code it Forward Hackathons for charities
  • Coordinate HTML 500 Events
  • Partner with local organizations like the First Nations Technology Council and Ladies Learning Code
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Why They Do It

  • To change the way tech education has been delivered and to continuously find better ways to deliver it themselves
  • To make an impact in the communities they serve
  • To support a more inclusive and accessible technology sector in Vancouver

“A poker player, a musician and a rocket scientist walk into a bar’ may sound like the start to a bad joke, but I’ve literally walked into a bar with a former poker player, musician and rocket scientist to celebrate their graduation from our boot camp.“ Rebecca

Ways to Participate:

  • Enroll in a course or a boot camp
  • Become a mentor developer
  • Hire a developer graduate
  • Attend a Demo Day or an info session, take a tour, or look at the student projects online.

Coffee Connection
We went to Pure Bread for a snack after meeting with Rebecca. We always take our visitors to Pure Bread to look at the beautiful display of desserts but the savoury treats are just as good (and so is the coffee).

Photo Credit: Jane Sameth Fishman
Photo Credit: Jane Sameth Fishman

Kids Code Jeunesse
We met with Wendy Hoy, Lead Instructor and Western Regional Coordinator from Kids Code Jeunesse and talked about how to get children and teens more interested in coding, programming and creating with technology (rather than just consuming it). Kids Code Jeunesse does many things to build a positive coding culture in schools and community organizations.

What They Do

  • Partner with teachers who want to integrate coding in the curriculum
  • Organize and lead Code, Create and Play workshops for children in libraries, community centres and other public spaces.
  • Collaborate with computer scientists, teachers and professors in an Education Committee to create resources for schools and communities.
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Why They Do It

  • To help children create and design inside and outside the classroom
  • To help teachers, schools, parents and community organizations support and inspire children in their tech learning journey.

I’m inspired every time I speak with other teachers about education and they share with me their teaching and learning philosophies and experiences over the years. Students constantly surpass my expectations, and they challenge me to be more creative and to try new ideas.

Ways to Participate:

  • Volunteer in the classroom, at workshops or with the organization
  • Learn to become a KCJ trainer
  • Start a coding club
  • Bring coding to your school and learn with your children or students
  • Donate to the KCJ to fund and sponsor a class, a student or a teacher

Coffee Connection

We met Wendy for coffee at Our Town Cafe. Their coffee is delicious, they are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner AND they have amazing desserts (including nutella tarts and cinnamon buns).

Organizations like these are part of what makes a city like Vancouver a connected place of learning and sharing. They inspire us to learn, create, and collaborate with each other. In a world swimming in technology, learning early how to harness it is an invaluable lesson.