Cathi Canfield works in staffing, so she’s no stranger to the needs of the modern workforce. One of those needs is computer coding.
But the benefits of coding go beyond the skill itself. Learning to code, Canfield says, also strengthens problem solving, self-confidence and self-reliance. That’s why she wanted her own daughter to learn to code.
And it’s why she’s now the franchise owner for a center that teaches coding to children ages 7-14.
Code Ninjas opened in Carmel in 2019, giving kids the opportunity to spend two hours each week — after school or on Saturdays — creating computer games and working toward building their own apps. A second local location, in Fishers, opened last June, with a Zionsville Code Ninjas planned for 2020.
“Our goal first and foremost is to encourage a love of learning,” Canfield says. “I’ve had students who have come to me, and some parents, who say, ‘This is exactly what we’ve been looking for.’ Hopefully it’s a wonderful, safe, positive place for kids who want to pursue this, to lift them up and encourage that part of their brain.”
At Code Ninjas, children follow a belt system like that of karate or taekwondo. Each level of experience and accomplishment earns the student a different color of belt, all the way through the development of an app that is part of receiving the top-level, black belt. Students can make their self-created apps available through Apple or Google.
A former Zionsville teacher directs Code Ninjas in Carmel, and 10 high school and college students work directly with children as “senseis.”
Now a resident of Charlotte, N.C., Canfield is a southern Indiana native who previously lived in Zionsville. It was in Charlotte that Canfield’s daughter was a student at a Code Ninjas, and the karate-themed approach to achievement provided a familiar element to a new experience.
When children head into the Code Ninjas learning area — dubbed the dojo, of course — they take part in self-directed learning through a game-based curriculum. When students face obstacles in their work, senseis work with them to develop solutions. While the senseis serve as guides, the students solve their own problems.
“There’s a lot of encouragement, and they communicate well,” Canfield says of the senseis. “But for the student, it’s, ‘I made a mistake, and that’s okay. I learned, and now I have a new game I didn’t have last week or last month. With my own brain power, I can solve these problems.’”
Pleased with her family’s experience with Code Ninjas in Charlotte, Canfield asked about opportunities to get involved in the Texas-based business. When she learned she could become a franchise owner, she thought of her former home, the Carmel area. With its reputation for strong schools and commitment to technology-based companies, it seemed a perfect fit.
Sure enough, Canfield says, the area has enthusiastically received its first Code Ninjas location. In Carmel, everyone from teachers to parent organizations has been eager to assist. And in the few months that site has been open, one boy and one girl already have achieved second-level (yellow belt) status, putting them ahead of pace for typical Code Ninjas students.
Many local parents have jobs that require coding, Canfield says, but they had to wait until high school or college for opportunities to learn that skill. So they appreciate Code Ninjas’ emphasis on learning for a younger age group.
“They understand what this opens up for their children,” she says.
Not only that, but Code Ninjas offers children positive role models, with the senseis sharing information about their work in high school and college. And Canfield sees an even larger purpose as well — one that encourages the use of technology to enhance quality of life.
“At the end of the day, for me, personally, there’s coding for humanity,” she says. “It’s not all about games and apps. There’s an opportunity to make a huge impact on the world by thinking about things that can help people.”
To learn more about Code Ninjas, visit codeninjas.com. For more about the local locations, including enrolling, prices and events like camps and parents’ nights out, contact the centers.
The Carmel Code Ninjas is located at 2436 E. 146th Street and you can give them a call at 317-587-8660.
The Fishers Code Ninjas is located at 11501 Geist Pavilion Drive, Suite 112 or call 812-320-5265 for more info.