Fun with Girls Who Code

One of our areas of emphasis at Cayzen is to give back to the community. After looking around, we found out about a program called Girls Who Code. It’s a wonderfully inspiring program that aims to help close the gender gap that exists in the computer science industry.

As someone who is in the process of helping to raise a fourth girl, I can personally attest that given the right environment, girls can be excited about code. Girls Who Code (GWC) has given me and others an avenue to spread the knowledge and fun to girls. That is VERY exciting to me.

Stepping into a new club.

This is briefly how we started the club:

Step 1: Establish a GWC location. We were able to start one at Tumwater High School. They were as excited as we were about the opportunity. That was great.

Step 2: Add volunteers. That was easy. We were eager.

Step 3: Enroll students. This was scary to me. Would anyone be interested? Who would want to spend their Friday afternoon learning to code? Alas, my fears were allayed as there were not only interest from girls, but also boys! Wonderful.

Step 4: Start the club!

The start of something new

The first session was very enlightening. We had about 16 kids. Some have never written a line of code (no coding experience required) and some have. That is a challenge for us as volunteers: how to keep everyone engaged.

The GWC program allows volunteers freedom to adjust the curriculum as they see fit. So since this is the kid’s club, we decided to let them decide the breakdown of the session. We went with starting them on fundamental programming concepts.

The Scratch program.

Scratching that itch

The first two sessions of the GWC curriculum involves no coding. The intent is to establish a team environment that fosters the girls’ perseverance to the challenges of coding. After talking with the kids it became clear that they wanted to start coding sooner rather than later.

That was when we introduced Scratch. It is a great program that makes use of and demonstrates fundamental programming concepts. This is a very helpful tool because you can learn about coding without having to worry about syntax.

The first task using Scratch was to have a sprite move from one side of the screen to the other. As I walked around I could see that some of the kids were far more advanced and had already been introduced to Scratch. This was good to know and will factor into future session planning.

End of the first session

The rest of the session the kids continued to play in Scratch. I’m glad that it seemed to hold their interest. To try to keep their interest, throughout the session we made it a point to announce that this is a club, not a class. That this is their club. That they have a say in how the club operates. We hope that they get that. We want them to come back. Again and again. We will find out what happens next session…