By: Jen Russon
There’s a new resource for kids who love computers and gaming, coming to town in mid-March.
The learning center is called Code Ninjas, and designed so that kids ages 7 to 14 can learn the language of coding, and, ultimately develop and upload their own video games or custom app on the App Store. The franchise started in Texas one year ago, with rapid expansion just under 400 centers across the United States.
Traci and Erick Leon, Code Ninjas franchisees in South Florida, have two centers up and running in Cooper City and Plantation. The new center planned for the Coral Springs/Parkland area is located in Pine Ridge Square at 4469 N University Drive – next to Marshall’s.
While Erick keeps his day job as an e-commerce performance architect and making each of the three centers fully operational, Traci, an educator, acts as hands-on owner-operator.
A Broward County teacher of gifted students for the last 25 years, Traci is the face of Code Ninjas – conducting tours and meeting bright new pupils every day.
“I’m not running a learning center, so much as building a community for kids who are interested in technology, building new friendships and come to a place they can call their own,” said Traci. “And the Code Ninjas mission is just that, our kids hone logic, problem solving and math skills along the way and it’s all done in a fun energetic atmosphere.”
Code Ninjas offers a drop-in program, spring break and summer camps, in addition to a very popular Parents Night Out. Imagine enjoying a date night once a month, while your child plays brain boosting games with their peers.
Kids tend to love Minecraft and Roblox, and at Code Ninjas they get to indulge in high style.
The center is well-appointed for Potter heads and future Google employees – there are “coding wands” for J.K. Rowling fans to program, and a fun, creative atmosphere in which the future techies of the 21st century can chill – with or without their parents in close proximity.
Traci said that parents are always welcome to hang out in the waiting area where there is Wi-Fi and coffee, but are permitted in the dojos on open house days only.
“Drop-in is our core program. Before we enroll a new ninja, we recommend that parents bring their kids in for the free 30 minute trial,” said Traci, who always gives a tour first.
Those with membership at Code Ninjas can choose any two days of the week for “drop-ins”; it doesn’t have to be pre-booked. Parents can enjoy the flexibility of leaving their kids at drop-in for an hour, or stick around.
She added that Coral Springs and Parkland families don’t have to wait until the new location opens to get a feel for, or enroll at Code Ninjas. The Plantation center is a perfect model of what to expect, and scheduled to have an Open House day on February 23. Tours are offered anytime during business hours.
“A 30 minute trial, lets us see if your child is ready for our curriculum, and a good fit for the program. I’d say that 9 and a half times out of 10, it’s a good fit,” said Traci, who made it clear that age criteria for joining Code Ninas has wiggle room.
“I’ve seen six-year olds who are too young, but none-the-less appear ready to come back and try again in six months. I’m honest with parents. There may be older teenagers who want to learn. All are welcome. You don’t have to come from a coding background to succeed here – my first yellow belt didn’t know anything about computers when he started,” said Traci.
A life-long teacher, Traci admits there is a need to teach more computer tech in our public schools.
“The job growth in IT is exploding. Computer programming is a language, and young people learn new languages easily,” she said, going on to describe one of the first programming tasks in her center’s curriculum.
“We teach the kids how to code a traffic light to change from red to yellow, to green. That’s an example of programming in real-life – the way so many jobs look now,” she said.
If you are interested in learning more about Code Ninjas and their 3, 6 or 12 month memberships, contact Traci Leon at 954-399-7000 or register for a tour online. The first 50 families to enroll at the new Coral Springs location lock in a guaranteed rate, each time a membership is renewed.
Prior to the Coral Springs location grand opening, interested parents should bring their kids to the Plantation Code Ninjas at 1023 S. University Drive.
Monday – Friday 12 p.m. – 8p.m. , Saturday 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Monday – Friday 2 p.m. – 8 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.