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There is still a serious lack of girls in the computing fields these days, at least that’s what I’m told.
You’d never think that, tho…given the prevalence of girls’-coding-type classes and programs that are floating around the ‘net.
But I do have a daughter who’d spent an inordinate amount of time last summer playing games on her Kindle. So, instead of fighting it, I decided to be proactive this year and work with her. That led to a recent activity I hosted for her American Heritage Girls (AHG) troop…just for some summer fun. (Yes, it’s educational, too, but don’t tell them that!)
Taking a look at the oh-so-many programs to encourage the girls-of-today to get involved in computer fields-of-tomorrow, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It seems like everyone, from private schools hosting courses for a fee to Google sponsored classes for free, is getting into the act.
(Personally, I anticipate an overabundance of women programmers in the future as the pendulum swings that way…. But I digress.)
So, taking advantage of an instant group of students (her AHG friends), her developing STEM interests, and my own abilities/interests and options available to me, I put together a 2-day “Girls Coding Camp.”
And you can do it, too!
Prior Considerations for your own Girls Coding Camp
If this idea interests you, here are some things to think about as you begin to prepare:
- Consider your age-range. You may want to limit this to middle- to high-school-aged girls. They'll need to have a fair attention span and be able to work in a group setting. In my situation, our youngest camper was 11 and our oldest was 16.
- Think small if this is your first time doing something like this. I only had 5 students for this summer’s camp, and we met for two hours on two consecutive mornings. Everyone seemed to have a good time; we covered 3 areas of coding and laid a good foundation for future programming learning. I was able to both work out glitches and get a feel for how much/what info to include when I do this next time.
- Don’t think of it as a class – take a “camp” approach, instead. Even kids who are well on their way to having a lifestyle of learning need a break from intentional studies! Introduce things like vocabulary or foundational concepts in drips (which you’ll understand on the download I provide below). Look for and present fun activities which will both engage them and get them enthused to learn more information.
- Check out your local library or community center to find a small meeting space to use. Our library allowed us to use a conference room that had space for all of us to spread out and get comfy. Getting it out of a home environment will minimize distractions for you and make it a more ‘special’ activity for your students.
Considerations during Coding Camp
Introduce, and enforce, good computer practices during camp. Take a break at least once an hour, physically walking around, getting water, using the bathroom, etc.
- Encourage your campers to periodically look up from their screens and focus on a distant object. To make it fun, you might hang an interesting poster on a far wall, or have them look out the window and take turns playing “I Spy.” Staring at a computer screen for long periods of time is not healthy for young peoples’ developing vision.
- Try to set up activities or discussions that will encourage small-group engagement. Help them see that coding really IS a group activity, and requires the ability and willingness to work together, sharing ideas and skills!
Following-up After Camp
There are a number of ways to follow up after camp. It all depends on how much energy you have and want to spend, and if you have any plans to try this again in the future.
Because I can guarantee that your eyes will now be more receptive to finding new coding activities, it might be nice to at least have your campers’ email addresses and send them links and interesting resources as you find them.
If you do, however, let me encourage you to do two things:
- Preview EVERYthing before you send them on. Sometimes links are dead, other times they have, um, not-exactly-family-friendly ads on them, or the activities require you to set up accounts (sometimes with a credit card), videos have bad language in them, etc. Nothing is more discouraging to a budding coder than being encouraged to try something that doesn’t “work,” for whatever the reason.
- Bookmark good sites as you find them! Even if you don’t host another camp in the future, as a dedicated home educator there’s a high probability that you will be asked for some good STEM/programming resources. Be ready for the inquiry!
Oh, and that download I mentioned? Subscribe to the site and get immediate access to an outine you can use to host your own girls' coding camp!
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