Girl power through coding

Published 9:49 am Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A group of young ladies are learning coding and girl power after the establishment of a new Girls Who Code club at Cumberland Elementary School.

Girls Who Code is a national nonprofit organization that aims to increase the number of women in computer science by equipping girls with the necessary computer skills to pursue today’s opportunities. On its official website Girls Who Code describes itself as “building the largest pipeline of future female engineers in the U.S.”

The Girls Who Code club at Cumberland is taught by Technology Resource Instructor Francine Scott-Thompson and Special Education Paraprofessional Kyle Bouknight.

Email newsletter signup

In an interview with The Herald Scott-Thompson stated that the club began after she received an email forwarded to her from Coordinator of Curriculum and Instruction of Cumberland County Public Schools Dr. Sheri Almond that introduced the Girls Who Code organization and what it takes to start a club at one’s respective school.

After researching the requirements of beginning a Girls Who Code club, Scott-Thompson asked Bouknight to co-facilitate. “And the rest is history,” Scott-Thompson commented.

“When Mrs. Scott-Thompson had initially asked me to co-facilitate the Girls Who Code club, I shared with her that my experience with coding was almost nil,” stated Bouknight. “However, as a lifelong learner, I knew that I could put on my armor of bravery and tackle this technology subject with confidence. I researched information about coding until I began dreaming about coding in my sleep! That said, I acted as co-facilitator and student simultaneously!”

30 girls in grades three and four were invited to become members of the club, with 15 young ladies taking up on the offer.

According to Scott-Thompson the club met for 10 weeks beginning in late September. The once-a-week classes followed a weekly curriculum where girls journaled new vocabulary words, held discussions, completed plugged and unplugged activities, hosted a female high school engineering student who participates on a robotic team, and participated in Day of the Girl with other coding groups in order to highlight the gender gap in the computer science community.

“Each week the girls learned the meaning of vocabulary words like data, input, output, algorithms, pseudocode, etc. and how these words fit into our daily lives,” said Scott-Thompson. “They had to code a friend, which they found wasn’t easy, as they had to revise again and again. They learned that our daily routines like brushing their teeth or making a sandwich for us is simple, but teaching a computer how to complete these tasks will take very specific step by step instructions, (algorithm).”

Some of the assignments that the young ladies were given included pair programming like making a sprite glide or animating a name. They also sat together to brainstorm ideas of how to make a bot to collect mail at school, pick up trash, or help students read.

“Girls Who Code has built a movement,” said Bouknight. “This national organization has reached tens of thousands of girls in every state in the country. So, yes, we believe that clubs like Girls Who Code will change the current climate when it comes to women in the coding world. When they learn to code, they give themselves a tool, a tech superpower, to create change in their community and our world.”

“I’m excited to see the way their confidence increases not only in computer science but other subjects like science, math, reading etc.,” added Scott-Thompson. “Our girls are a dynamic group who remained excited, focused, curious, dedicated and truly a lot of fun. I am very encouraged about their great futures.”