A new business in Regina is hoping to teach children a valuable skill for the future: coding.
Code Ninjas is an international coding franchise that uses markers usually associated with martial arts, teaching children how to create their own video games and eventually work toward becoming a "black belt" in coding.
Krista Monkhouse, who has opened Saskatchewan's first Code Ninjas franchise in Regina, says she was inspired by her eight-year-old son.
"He had been asking me a few years ago to teach him how to make video games," Monkhouse said. "I was a fish out of water and I needed to find something that would help me do that."
She travelled to the United States to see what the Code Ninjas franchise was like.
"I fell in love with the environment and everything that they were doing with the kids there. So I thought, this is something that Saskatchewan needed to have here."
Coding helps develop skills like problem-solving, along with logic, math and reading skills, says Monkhouse.
"We teach them how to turn that passive time on the screen into creative time on the screen, and using skills that will help them going forward in the future."
In the nine-step Code Ninjas program, students are able graduate, or become "black belts," when they create and release an app, she said.
Teaching students how to code is really teaching them computational thinking, she said, and classes now are very different from older coding classes.
"We're now looking at 3D modelling, which is something that we teach kids how to do," she said.
"If you open up your phone right now or something on your computer, you'll see these high-end games, and those are coded in languages that we teach."
Classes at her business are a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning at the moment, because some parents prefer to not go into facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The University Park Drive facility can accommodate up to 36 students, but during the pandemic, Monkhouse is only allowing 10 at a time.
"It's going really well, surprisingly," she said. "Parents, during the whole shutdown, say they were looking for something for their kids to do. And so we saw a huge surge in our virtual program over the shutdown and through the summer program."
Monkhouse said the business is now starting its fall programming.
She said she hopes the program gives kids an edge when they're choosing a career path in the future, or simply gives them something they enjoy in their everyday life.
"Extracurricular programs are something that most kids are doing these days, but some kids struggle to find something that is really for them," she said.
"So we're hoping to build a place that kids can come together and meet other kids with similar interests and build skills to help them in the future."