Starting with Scratch

By: 
Staff Writer Kate Wehlann

Sixth grader Sophia Trainor poses with her computer, open to the program she and other Girls Who Code members use to learn computer languages.

EWMS, EWES girls take opportunity to be Girls Who Code

It’s not a secret that East Washington School Corporation is in hot pursuit of STEM certification, something administrators said they thought would be tough. However, it turns out that many of the things required of schools seeking certification were things East Washington schools were already doing. Still, they continue to pursue things to build and improve on their current work, such as bringing in more computer science opportunities for students.

Girls Who Code is a nation-wide, online curriculum for girls who are interested in the STEM fields. The number of women in those professions is dwarfed by the number of men, despite there being no gender-based aptitude toward those fields. The organization seeks to empower girls and young women to learn the foundations of computer science and grow their skills.

Computer Science teacher Rosa Snapp leads the middle school club, which began just before winter break.

“We originally wanted it to be an after-school club,” she said. However, barriers like being involved in athletics or not being able to get reliable transportation home came into play. Then both the middle and high schools began employing clubs held in the morning, during homeroom, for students who have completed all their work and are not receiving any failing grades on their report cards (students with incomplete assignments and failing grades receive remediation during that time). This allowed the club to start as an option for girls during that morning period, a time when student athletes and bus-riders can take part.

“This is my first year teaching computer science,” said Snapp. “I went to training at IU Bloomington this summer and realized the need for kids to know computer science and especially girls in the field.”

Snapp said her students are starting with Scratch, a program designed to teach coding in JavaScript, but said with the advances that are being, and will be, made at the elementary level, she said she will probably have students more advanced in the next few years, ready to take on bigger and more complicated computer coding languages.

“We’re experimenting with Scratch,” said sixth grader Sophia Trainor. “You can do so much — make games, and websites and it’s so much fun!”

“It’s really cool because the teacher is nice and I’m learning something I’m going to use in a career,” said Trainor, who added she wants to be a computer programmer.

Trainor said she likes clubs where boys and girls co-mingle, but she also enjoys having a STEM space for just the girls.

“It’s more open,” she said. “We can talk about anything.”

A Girls Who Code club is also in the process of starting at the elementary school, led by teacher and STEM Club advisor Shelby Lee. She addressed the girls-only issue during the February school board meeting.

“Girls Who Code is gender-specific, not exclusive,” she said. “This means that the programming is one that focuses on girls, and takes into consideration the biases might impact their experience … We want to create a space in computer science for women. They’re very under-recognized in that field in the professional world. This is a space for them to grow and learn computer science together.”

The club will be for third and fourth graders, and currently has four members.

Girls must apply and are selected based on those applications. The club will meet once a week for six weeks, starting after spring break.

“In the STEM class that I teach, all grades completed their grade specific computer coding fundamentals course through Code.org this past fall semester,” said Lee. “The girls that have registered so far for the club are very excited to continue learning about coding.”

“I think it’s pretty exciting and I’m glad she’s bringing this to our kids,” said Principal Stacy Richardson.

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