Tinkering with Circuits @ CoderDojo Bologna

CoderDojo Bologna is a group of volunteers helping kids from 8 to 18 to express their creativity through digital technologies.  We organize a free coding club almost twice a month on Saturday for 20-40 kids, according of the capacity of the space that hosts us ( public libraries, makerspaces, co-working, research centers..).

Since 2013 we have offered  our ninjas (that’s how we call our participants) a creative learning environment where they can experiment with the fun of  sharing ideas and helping each other while creating with technologies.

The club is open to everyone, so our kids are different ages, backgrounds and experiences. To design a learning environment that can be useful for everyone, we always try to focus on what we wish them to experience during our club:

  • have fun
  • discover new things
  • feel free to create
  • work on something meaningful
  • talk to each other and share ideas

It is a major goal that our ninjas will flow through the experience with their own style. Each of them will experience fun, discovering, creating, expressing and collaborating in a way completely different from everyone else. For the mentors it’s always fun to discover each kid’s special way and to go along with them in the creative learning process!!

For example, in November 2016 CoderDojo Bologna was hosted by a Social Service Community Center in a district of Bologna with an high number of immigrant families, most from North Africa and Eastern Europe. We choose to set up a “Tinkering with Circuits” experience with low-cost materials, so they can replicate the experience at home without the need of expensive technology like laptops or robots.

It was the first time that kids from the Community Center had the chance to attend a Dojo with other ninjas from all over town.

It was the first Dojo for Isabel and her brother Mark (not their real names). They arrived with two different attitudes: she was very happy and curious, while he was very upset because the other kids were younger than him.

The first part of the Dojo was a “getting started” activity, which is useful to explore how a circuit  works.

In our Dojo we call this activity “My First Paper Circuit”. Kids use tinfoil and a battery to light up an LED.


The second part of the dojo was designed to facilitate tinkering with the notion of circuit. With tinkering I mean to play and experiment with materials and elements of knowledge without boundaries or clear goals.

The space was set up with a huge collection of different kind of materials and tools and a few examples of circuitry creations that kids could disassemble. Kids can take anything they want,  play with the materials, and follow their inspiration.

tinkering-with-circuitcoderdojo-bologna-1 It’s amazing to see how many different ways kids construct their creative learning experience. Some of them try multiple paths and ideas, while others fall in love with an idea and try until success.

Ninjas have different styles in the interaction with mentors too. Some kids want to work alone, others choose to work with peers, while some don’t feel comfortable creating without the help of an adult.

tinkering-with-circuitcoderdojo-bologna-2 tinkering-with-circuitcoderdojo-bologna-3


Are you curious to see Isabel and Mark’s creations? Click here

In CoderDojo Bologna we truly believe in Papert’s idea of Epistemological Pluralism, every kid (and every adult too) has a personal way of construing and  flowing into experience, that depends on a constellation of elements like family background, previous experiences, self-esteem, interests, boundaries and social interaction patterns elicited by the context.

The best we can do is offering a learning environment that supports wide diversity of pathways and projects, so that anyone can express creatively in his own special way.

At the end of the Dojo, during the show & tell moment, it’s amazing to see how kids embody this idea with each of their own light creations!




Turkle & Papert (1990): Epistemological Pluralism: Styles and Voices within the Computer Culture 

Resnick (2016): Designing for Wide Walls

Resnick & Rosenbaum (2013): Designing for Tinkerability

A big THANK YOU to CoderDojo Bologna for letting me share this story and for the passion that every mentor puts in our Dojo. It’s an honour to be a part of this wonderful community!