Rockville Summer Camp 2021

Panda Programmer is excited to offer its in-person summer camp in Rockville for the summer of 2021!  Our experienced teachers will be guiding campers between grades 1 and 8 as they learn the wonders of computer programming.  

Our curriculum focuses on Scratch, a platform designed for kids by the MIT media lab in Boston.  Campers are grouped in cohorts, wear masks, and have plenty of space to play outside in the fresh air.  For more information on our 2021 summer camp in Rockville, click on Summer Camps.

Panda Programmer has been offering summer camps since 2015.  We cater primarily to elementary and middle school students from grades 1 to 8.  Because our classes and camps are fun, kids love to come!  And as we deal with the challenges of the pandemic and 2021 camp, we are keeping the campers excited and engaged with our curriculum that is constantly being updated.  We are teaching not only Scratch, but also Scratch JR, Python, HTML, and JavaScript.  Our advanced Scratch curriculum provides challenges to our students who have mastered the programming fundamentals in their online and in-person classes during the school year. 

For more information on our curriculum please click on our curriculum page.  

For more information on our online classes, in-person classes, virtual mini-camps, or in-person summer camps, contact us anytime at: or 443-26-PANDA.

smiling camper

1 Hour Classes

1 Hour Classes

1 hour classes may be the answer! Are your children all “Zoomed” out from remote schooling?  Is the typical 2 hour Panda Programmer class just too much time for your child during the pandemic?

No problem! As of December, 2020 Panda Programmer is offering 1 hour classes to our students.  Simply choose the “1 hour” format when you sign up for the class, and your child will be registered for this newer, shorter format. 

We still teach the same material in the same fun environment-  it’s just shorter!

And if you prefer our traditional 2 hour format, that is still offered as well.  Call or email us with any questions on the length of our classes.  

Update for summer 2021:  We will continue to offer a choice for the length of our online classes.  Students may opt for the shorter class (60 minutes) or the longer traditional class (120 minuts).  And of course there’s summer camp!  Our in-person summer camp is offered in half-day sessions, which are 3 hours long.  Or students can come for the entire day.  Full-day camp is 7 hours long.  Often kids have more fun in the in-person environment.  They can chat with their friends.  They can meet new friends.  And they have plenty of peers to show off their work to!  That goes the other direction as well, as students can learn from the peers too.

Regarding the fall for 2021:  Panda Programmer is hoping to once again offer in-school after-school classes.  Our traditional classes are taught in MCPS elementary schools.  1 hour classes are not part of this curriculum.  The in-school after-school classes are typically 2 hours long.  

Hoping to see you and your children in the fall!

computer class at camp

Why Kids should learn how to code

Why kids should learn how to code



“I believe technology should give us superpowers. Everyone should have the opportunity to learn to think, analyze, and create with technology.” Hilary Mason – Chief Scientist, Bitly


“Because our policy at Facebook is literally to hire as many talented engineers as we can find. There just aren’t enough people who are trained and have these skills today.” Mark Zuckerberg – Founder, Facebook


“Here we are, 2013. We ALL depend on technology to communicate to a bank.  However none of us knows how to read and write code. It’s important for these kids.  Right now, starting at 8 years old, to read and write code.” – Musician/The Black Eyed Peas and Entrepreneur


“One hundred years ago, people were faced with the choice of learning to read.  Otherwise they could remain illiterate laborers who would be left behind as have-nots.  In a rapidly modernizing world. In the coming century, being able to command the world that will be thoroughly computerized will set apart those who can live successfully in the future from those who will be utterly left behind.” Yishan Wong – CEO, Reddit


“I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.” — STEVE JOBS, THE LOST INTERVIEW


“Every student deserves the opportunity to learn computer programming. Coding can unlock creativity and open doors for an entire generation of American students. We need more coders — not just in the tech industry, but in every industry.” Mark Pincus – CEO and Founder, Zynga


“Learning to code makes kids feel empowered.  Also creative.  And also confident. If we want our young women to retain these traits into adulthood, a great option is to expose them to computer programming in their youth.” Susan Wojcicki – Senior Vice President, Google


“Programming allows you to think about thinking, and while debugging you learn to learn.” Nicholas Negroponte – Founder and Chairman Emeritus of MIT’s Media Lab


“If you can program a computer, you can achieve your dreams. A computer doesn’t care about your family background, your gender, just that you know how to code. But we’re only teaching it in a small handful of schools, why?” Dick Costolo – CEO, Twitter


“All of the today’s kids will need—along with reading, writing, and arithmetic—a basic understanding of computation and the role that it plays across a wide range of disciplines. Coding is engaging and empowering. It’s a necessary 21st Century skill.” Jan Cuny – Program Officer, National Science Foundation


“We must work diligently to democratize computer science learning so that no group is denied access to this fundamental knowledge. Not only is this an issue of civil rights, but computer science as a field desperately needs diverse and multiple perspectives.” Jane Margolis – Senior Researcher and Author, UCLA


“Are you creative? Do you love problem-solving? Is teamwork a strength? Do you want to have the power to change the world? If “yes” to all of these, then computer science – programming – is for you!” Ed Lazowska – Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington

Middle School curriculum

Middle School Curriculum

Dear Panda Programmer,

My son is in middle school and would like to learn how to code.  I saw that you teach middle school students as well as elementary school students.  How are they in the same programming class?  Aren’t the ages too disparate?  And would a middle schooler begin with Scratch, or Python, or ScratchJr?  Thanks in advance,

Pam in New York City

Who uses Scratch? and What is ScratchJr?

Many parents ask us: Who uses Scratch? and What is ScratchJr?

These are two interesting but very different questions!  (and they come up often as we teach coding for kids) Scratch vs ScratchJR:

Scratch is used by many people from all backgrounds, in all countries around the world. The last count we are aware of is 43 million registered users! They use it in all types of settings: schools, libraries, homes, museums, community locations, and more.  Scratch was created by the MIT Media Lab.  Scratch is designed especially for young people ages between 7 and 16, but people of all ages create and share with Scratch. Traditionally younger children tend to use ScratchJr, a simplified version of Scratch designed for ages 5 to 6.  And that’s the “Scratch” part of the Scratch vs ScratchJR comparison.

ScratchJr is an introductory programming language that enables young children (ages 5-6) to create their own interactive stories and games. ScratchJr users do not need to know how to type! Children snap together graphical programming blocks to make characters move, jump, dance, and sing. While the programs in ScratchJr are simpler than those of Scratch, the logical thinking required to create ScratchJr programs is remarkably the same. Children can modify ScratchJr characters in the paint editor, add their own voices and sounds, even insert photos of themselves — then use the programming blocks to make their custom characters come to life.
ScratchJr is available as a free app for both iPad and Android tablets.  That wraps up the “ScratchJR” part of the Scratch vs ScratchJR comparison.

Fortunately our curriculum makes extensive use of both Scratch and ScratchJR!  Since our curriculum is self-paced, our students can make the most use of both platforms, advancing to Scratch when they are truly ready.

Thoughts on remote learning

Online classes– With the end of lockdowns hopefully approaching, many parents of school-age children will breathe a sigh of relief. No longer will they have to monitor their children’s virtual assignments. Nor will they worry about how to manage the Zoom classroom for their kids. The pandemic and the executive orders to close schools have challenged teachers, parents, and children. There is stress of making sure that children are learning. What they should be learning has added an extra layer of pressure on both parents and teachers.

We hope that by next fall, school personnel will have figured out a way for students and faculty to return safely to school. But the reality of COVID-19 is that many students may start the fall with some version of online instruction. Even if children go in person, at some point.  During the year, schools may have to then revert to virtual learning.

The question becomes: How can parents best support their children if they have to rely on virtual instruction again? What we know from informal observation is that some children have managed better than others this spring. Some children adapted easily to the Zoom classroom and video interactions. Other children had more difficulty managing the work presented mostly through screen instructions.

Online Classes

One woman Leila interviewed her seven-year-old granddaughter, Sarah, to gain insight into the experience of online learning – what worked, what was harder, what she liked about online learning and what she missed about not being in her classroom. She is just finishing first grade and was happy to answer questions. We recognize that this is just one child’s view, but she provided some great input on the merits and drawbacks of online learning – answers that help us understand this experience through the eyes of a child who has been thrust out of the classroom and onto the computer.

Asked if she liked online learning, Sarah said, “Yes, because when I am done with learning I can play. I don’t have to wait for everyone else.” Each day, she watches the videos her teachers make for her, and when she completes them, she gets to play. She also observed that “in school, kids can be loud and teachers have to pause in the middle and wait. At home, no one else is making it loud.” This child is clearly a self-regulated learner; she has the insight to recognize that when kids talk, it gets in the way of her understanding the teacher. Sarah is a child who likes working at her own pace and prefers a quiet environment. Most children learn more efficiently when there are fewer distractions. However, every child learns differently, and this is one area parents could explore with their children.


Sarah disliked several things about learning online. She noted that getting help was harder. “In school, the teacher knows what we are working on together. At home, I have to explain to Mom or Dad what we are working on before they can help me.” Also, she noted that when her teacher gives instructions in class, she uses props, which are more difficult to see online. Sarah added, “Real school is easier because you can ask for help and you don’t have to figure things out alone.” Finally, online instruction has the usual internet glitches. “Sometimes the screen flickers and makes weird noises.” And sometimes, she added, “Online instruction is boring.” We too can feel that way after endless Zoom calls.

We do not necessarily think that Sarah’s experience is universal. Rather, we are encouraging parents to take a few moments to talk with their own children regarding their online classroom experience this spring. By understanding how your children manage online instruction, you may be able to partner with them to create a more effective personal learning environment when schools reopen next fall.


Coding for kids

Is Coding for kids really that important?

In a word, “Yes!”

  • Coding teaches students to think ahead and strategize a solution. These abilities are helpful across many different challenges and endeavors.
  • Coding teaches kids not to give up. Programmers know that rarely does a program run as expected the first time. But by trying over and over, the programmer is usually able to debug the program and get the results he or she desires.
  • Coding is challenging and collaborative. Panda Programmer encourages students to work together on programs from time to time. Students find that anyone can (including themselves!) can come up with the winning approach to a stubborn programming issue.
  • Coding is good for the brain. We have all heard the phrase “Use it or lose it.” Coding falls into the category of activities that requires students to use their brains to succeed.
  • Coding is fun! Coding is a great pursuit that combines all of the advantages mentioned here in a manner that is enjoyable and fun for students young and old. “Fun” keeps students coming back to coding!

-Panda Programmer