One of the challenges of increasing diversity in coding is recruiting young women to learn these skills. This week Ellie Fitzpatrick and I ran a camp on how to program in Python. This is an all girls camp and we taught them the way we learn best, by incorporating creative coding opportunities. We utilized both Processing 3 and webbing Minecraft to Python.
Ellie has lead a lunchtime coding club at her school, Harpeth Hall, for 3 years. As a seasoned Python tutor she learned to use innovative coding examples that engage girl's imaginations and make them think critically. This week we covered the basics and much more. Our curriculum included:data types, lists, dictionaries, loops, functions, objects, and attributes by creating 'fish stores', 'big fluffy dog functions', and auto building in Minecraft.
By Friday, these young women had designed their own project. All are solving problems with their programs and creating unique code to perform their selected tasks. This programming class has morphed into an coding art creation event. Our youngest coder is working on the variables so she can move the doors and windows populating into her world from Python. She has spent the entire day on this project. Girls who learn to code in this manner learn persistence.
Our young women who took our class told us that there were some things that helped them. These requests set them apart from mixed gender groups. Handwriting notes was one of the things they requested to do often. Although I would not let them entirely write because working in the IDE and getting error feed back is important, note taking was calming for them and helped them with retention. They also reported sublime text was beneficial because Bella told us that 'the colors help her see different parts of the code'. All agreed the colors helped them know if they had saved their file as a .py and it was pretty.
We were all so involved in the coding projects on Friday we were an hour late to lunch. Not one person was waiting time checking email or playing video games. They were serious about learning and making their code function. Highly successful camp for our girls. I learned as much about teaching girls to code as they learned about code. Thank you to Harpeth Hall for providing the space and to WITT for sponsoring our work.
We used this reference to help build our camp:
Ellie's favorite reference book to learn Python is: