No. 09 — 🎄 24 ideas for holiday season 🎒 Schools of trees, logic and poetic computation

Christmas CAPTCHA and binary trees

My name is Linda. I write a bi-weekly newsletter about computer science, childhood and culture - and there are 9627 of you listening. If you enjoy this issue, please share it with anyone you think may find it useful.


Seven years ago I was working on a daily advent calendar for Ruby. I had just moved back to Helsinki from New York and was looking for momentum, some kind of permission to start working on the children’s book I had been talking about. My drawing sucked and the stories limp.

Looking back, making drawing a daily habit was the thing that turned me from reaching for a noun, into a verb and helped me have the confidence to illustrate instead of trying to be an illustrator and write, instead of trying to be a writer.

I haven’t tried a countdown calendar since. But this season is unlike any December I’ve experienced, so here are 24 ideas for welcoming some stay-at-home holiday spirit and a little computing education, both for parents, teachers and curious grownups.


24 computing ideas for December

  1. Bake cookies in the shape of hardware.

  2. Make ice lanterns, lanterns from tin cans or jam jars or anything that holds light. Study binary letters and create the first letter of your name.

  3. All holiday cooking is an opportunity for some decomposition practice.

  4. Craft your own holiday cards and send to friends. Or, print out Ruby themed ones I made a few years back.

  5. Create a book advent calendar - a packaged surprise book to read every night, either from a local bookshop, thrift store or a library. Here’s a nice selection of code-inspired ones and a list of different language versions of Hello Ruby books.

  6. Learn to fold a christmas tree napkin and write out the algorithm for others to learn it too.

  7. Decorate a christmas tree (or build a hardware spruce).

  8. Decode the secret message Christmas tree lights and ask a programmer you know to explain this joke.

  9. Take an evening walk around the city to look at the festive lights and maybe spot things related to Internet.

  10. Start a diary for kids to record countdown to Christmas, including especially pictures and mementoes of the pandemic year and it’s digital pocket treasures.

  11. Make homemade playdough and add glitter for some extra effect. Or buy from a store. Try recreating some of your favorite apps.

  12. Code a holiday themed game. Here are Scratch tutorials for a Snowball fight game, a Downhill ski game and a selection of Holiday projects from around the world.

  13. Kids from Newburgh designed the village christmas lights and they are so delightful. Design and create completely unique light decorations - shop your own LED lights and other equipment from Adafruit.

  14. London Computing has a selection of great Christmas Computing projects - I especially love the Christmas Greeting algorithm and the Computer jokes.

  15. Print out a colouring page. Mr Printable has the coolest ones.

  16. Create a holiday themed CAPTCHA and discuss how you’d train a machine learning system to understand the concept of Christmas.

  17. Pretend play - the kids are robots and their task is to collect Christmas objects from around the house. Focus the hunt around classifying and grouping similar objects, such as objects of a specific color, texture, or shape.

  18. Repeat the hunt, but this time collecting and sorting old toys and other things to give away as a donation to a local charity.

  19. Make paper snowflakes and decorate the windows. Recreate the snowflakes in Scratch, try out a snowflake holiday science project or explore snowflake symmetry.

  20. Try making pixel art of holiday imagery.

  21. Paper chains are fun to make, cheerful and include easily ideas of binary numbers in them.

  22. Make an obstacle course for the little robots in your family - the robots have their eyes covered and the programmers give instructions for the hopping, crawling, walking backward, balancing and rolling through the course.

  23. Visit a virtual museum. Here’s a list - each family member chooses a museum and curates three pieces for everyone else to see.

  24. Fill a basket with pine cones, berries, and other treasures of nature and make decorations. Practice pattern recognition skills.


Linked List

In computer science, a linked list is a linear collection of data elements whose order is not given by their physical placement in memory. But here it is a selection of things I’ve been reading lately.

The classroom

I’m hoping to surface and share stories from all of you and I’d love to see your creations! Or hit reply and answer me: 

  • Has your family or school tried something like the countdown calendar? If yes, did you enjoy it?

  • What ideas would you add to the list above?