For the first year, our Middle School offered Girls Who Code as an elective for 7th and 8th graders. Suggested by Lilly Baker ‘23 who heard about the program through her family, this elective teaches basic computer coding principles within the framework of a larger goal or purpose. The inaugural Girls Who Code class chose the theme “Bettering Ourselves: Mental Health and How to Improve It” to frame each of their projects. This elective is about more than just learning to code. It’s about working together to make a positive difference in each other’s lives and the greater community.
What is Girls Who Code?
Girls Who Code is a national non-profit working to close the gender gap in technology. Their goal is to create a sisterhood of supportive peers and role models that use computer science to change the world. The organization encourages girls to impact their communities in positive ways through code.
Sisterhood, Code and Impact
The three basic elements of the Girls Who Code curriculum are sisterhood, code and impact. Middle School math teacher Ms. Rachel McMahon modified that to form the basis for our elective at Severn. At the beginning of the quarter, the class chooses a theme that they care about and that can help make the world a better place. They then learn about the impact female coders have made throughout history and around the world, take self-guided tutorials to learn basic programming skills, practice essential project management techniques and work together to create their final projects. The goal is to put all of these projects together to form one cohesive website at the end of class. The girls work in pairs or groups to create:
an interactive magazine
an informative app
or a quiz game
“On the Girls Who Code HQ site, you pick which tutorial you want to follow. The tutorial explains what everything is and walks you through it so you can build your project at the same time; it’s side by side. I like that you have the freedom to make whatever you want. My dad was the one who told me about Girls Who Code and I asked if we could try it at Severn.” — Lilly Baker ‘23
Project-based Work That Builds a Supportive Community
Any 7th or 8th-grade girl can sign up for this elective. Some in this group had previously taken Ms. McMahon’s other coding elective, Intro to Computer Coding and Programming, while others had little or no experience. The environment of the class is very supportive, those with more experience help others with less. Ms. McMahon circulates the room to offer suggestions while the girls ask each other questions to figure their way through the code.
“I signed up for the class because I’m interested in technology and it’s cool to learn how websites are made. We are making a fun animation with Scratch that will hopefully make people feel happy when they watch it. This is my first time coding. I like following the tutorial and being able to code right away.”— Aliza Monaldo '24
“I’m making an info app using Thunkable. My app will give people tips on how to feel better about themselves...things like advice on how to stay calm, eat healthier and exercise. This is my first time coding and it’s been a little difficult so far. This is not stuff that I am familiar with but it’s really fun.” — Jess Wilson ‘24
“When I was in 7th grade, the coding class had a majority of boys. There were only three girls so it was hard being in that class because you couldn’t really express yourself the way you can here. This class is more open-ended and it helps you focus on an issue. I like that.” — Emma Ripley ‘23
“Because the overall goal is to create multiple projects around a theme and incorporate those into a website for the whole class, it’s more goal-based than my other coding class which is more skills-based. The overall concepts they are learning are important — collaboration, organization, and learning by doing. This was my first time teaching this specific curriculum. I’ll continue to develop and modify it to make sure it works best for my students at Severn. ” — Ms. McMahon