Girls-only coding camp builds confidence

St. Margaret’s provides camps dealing with computer science to girls in Grades 3-6

Sophie Chu and Esha Patel use electrical invention kits during St. Margaret’s Maker Day workshop. The girls-only school is hosting a new coding camp

Being Canada’s first all-girl STEM school, St. Margaret’s is an ideal location for a brand new girls-only coding camp.

Codemakers CoderGirl is the name of two weeklong camps aimed at engaging girls from Grades 3 to 6 with computer science and computational thinking in a relaxed, inspirational environment. The camp, which teaches skills such as app design and robot programming, is run in partnership with Science Venture and Girls Learning Code, two non-profits dedicated to teaching computer engineering skills through accessible workshops.

The hands-on, project-based camp came about after St. Margaret’s hosted a previous workshop in partnership with the two organizations using invention software littleBits, Makey Makey and Arduino.

“It was a great way to combine expertise and equipment and mentors,” said Lauren Hudson, the STEM program support teacher at St Margaret’s. “It was a seamless and perfect fit to have all three organizations, where really, our goal is to promote STEM to youth.”

“The world of science and tech is super interconnected,” said Andrew MacLean, acting director of Science Venture. “This was just sort of the next logical step, to try something and see how it works out.”

The curriculum was created by members of Science Venture, who are running the camp as instructors along with mentors from Girls Learning Code. St. Margaret’s is providing the space and some of the technological equipment.

While St. Margaret’s and Girls Learning Code hosted an HTML and CSS coding workshop in November for National Coding Day, this new camp promises to offer a broader range of unique skills for attendees to take into STEM fields.

“They’re going to get exposed to a lot of cool things – things that are applicable and used every day by them and consumers,” said Christina Jones, Victoria youth chapter lead with Girls Learning Code. “They’re going to cover a lot more things than the one language we covered on National Coding Day.”

One of the unique parts of the camp, said MacLean, is the use of software for real-time app design, allowing girls to develop and test games before publishing them to app stores.

“By the end of the session, they’ll have an app that will be out there for the world to see,” he said. “Most of these kids, when we see them in Grades 7, 8 and 9 when they come to our older camps, they know more sometimes than the instructors. It’s the next generation of really literate, digitally savvy kids.”

“Their creativity is just outstanding. You give them the tools and they come up with something that you could never have come up with,” added Jones.

“In a girls-only environment, it’s really safe for the girls and we often find that they really thrive when given the opportunity to explore in this setting,” said Hudson. “We’re not hoping to make everybody a programmer, but rather to spark that interest and maybe just expose them to something that’s a possibility for them.”

The camp, which runs this week and next, is sold out, but Hudson said there’s a strong possibility that St. Margaret’s will bring the camp back if it’s successful.

 

“We always do a reflection piece as organizations and we take a look at what went well, what we can improve on and what are our next steps,” said Hudson. “We’re excited to see how it goes.”

 

 

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