10th Grade Girls Host Middle School Virtual Coding Crash Course

Windward Communications
On October 10 and 11, Windward students and STEAM Scholars Isis Ginyard ’23 and Justine Ludden ’23 hosted a virtual two-day crash course in coding for Middle Schoolers. The course, taught to seven 7th Grade girls, featured introductory sessions in coding and animation, as well as intermediate sessions in JavaScript. Read below to learn more about what inspired Isis and Justine to create such a fantastic event for Windward.

What is your favorite thing about STEAM in general and your favorite thing about STEAM at Windward?
Isis Ginyard: My favorite thing about STEAM is how it allows me to be creative. I love science so much because we are constantly learning more about how our world works. My favorite thing about STEAM at Windward are the plethora of clubs they have for students who enjoy STEAM. There are so many opportunities for students like me to pursue our interests and do something we enjoy with our peers.
Justine Ludden: My favorite thing about STEAM is how it uniquely encompasses five different disciplines allowing for a new level of creativity and innovation for a multitude of things. I get to take my passion for learning and apply it to a variety of sciences and extracurriculars! It is so hard to choose just one thing about STEAM or science to call my favorite, but Windward does an amazing job with STEAM through a large variety of STEAM-related clubs and activities for students to join.
Why is it important to you to get more girls (especially younger girls) interested in STEAM?
IG: It is important for me to get younger girls interested in STEAM because I wish I would have had a mentor who would have guided me along my journey. I learned a lot about STEAM on my own and I always heard how boys were usually the ones in science. I want to show young girls that they can be the exception to the rule. Being surrounded by women in STEAM is a really empowering experience and I want as many girls as possible to feel empowered too.
JL: It is important for me to get more girls interested in STEAM because as a girl involved in STEAM, I know firsthand the obstacles one faces, and I believe that if I can prepare or offer up any useful advice, I should. STEAM is never thought of as a field for women, but as the latest chemistry Nobel Prize winners have shown us, women can be a part of STEM and can make a difference. However daunting this field may seem to younger girls, I want them to know it was just as daunting to me, and that they have a mentor or someone to turn to if they want to.
How did you get into coding?

IG: I was first exposed to coding in Middle School when I joined the Robotics team. However, in my first year at Windward there was a coding course in our Geometry class and I really enjoyed it. I continued to pursue it outside of the classroom and it is now something I do a lot in my free time.

JL: In 8th Grade, I knew I was interested in the science aspect of STEAM but never really thought of myself as a coder. After my 8th Grade geometry class, we were offered a coding unit that really opened my eyes to the world of code! I realized there was a whole part of STEAM I had closed myself off from until then, and then decided to take the intro to coding eighth period in 9th Grade where I learned JavaScript and HTML/CSS. I’m now taking AP Computer Science A where we are working in Java. After learning the building blocks of different languages, I was really able to begin working and pursuing projects on my own!

How did you come up with the idea for your Virtual Coding Crash Course?
IG: I came up with the idea for our Virtual Coding Crash Course over the Summer because I wanted young boys and girls to see a positive image of women in STEM. I feel like there is an underrepresentation of women in tech, and I thought it was important for young people to have female role models who are good programmers.
JL: I came up with the idea for our Virtual Coding Crash Course after I had heard that the coding unit in geometry was not going to be taught anymore. I knew I wanted a way for students to be able to be exposed to coding before Upper School and have the opportunity to see if it was something they were interested in. Isis and I thought it would be great for Middle Schoolers to see women teaching coding and show a positive representation of women in STEAM. I wanted to have a singular weekend where this could all happen, and the Virtual Coding Crash Course was officially born!

How did the two of you decide what type of coding to teach?
IG: We are both experienced in JavaScript and we thought it would be a good place to start for beginners.
JL: We decided to teach JavaScript because after learning it in a unit in Geometry, we began to explore the technology side of STEAM and began gaining interest. We wanted to give other Middle Schoolers the opportunity to see if they would enjoy coding. avaScript is a user friendly platform that still provides the building blocks for AP classes in Upper School that use java.

How was your experience leading an event like this? Would you do it again? Did you experience any challenges in putting together this event, and if so, how did you overcome those challenges?

IG: I had an amazing time leading this event and I would love to do it again. The girls were amazing and we had a wonderful time together. The crash course was great because it was a really supportive environment where we all helped each other learn and grow.
JL: I had such a great and eye-opening time leading an event like this. Sometimes it is easy to assume that the lack of girls in STEAM is due to a lack of interest, but talking with all of these Middle Schoolers about their newfound interest in STEM or coding at the end of our crash course helped me see that girls want to participate, and should feel comfortable enough to do so! I would love to do it again and not only share my knowledge of JavaScript, but also of java and HTML/CSS for interested coders!

What was your favorite part of this experience?
IG: My favorite part of this experience was bonding with the Middle School girls. We had so much fun, and it felt really nice to be a part of a group of girls who love STEM.  
JL: My favorite part of this experience was seeing Middle Schoolers who ended up going above and beyond our lesson and tasks because their interest in coding blossomed after being exposed to it. Most students aren’t naturally exposed to coding, and allowing Middle Schoolers the chance to code in a world where technology is becoming more and more prominent was so much fun! 

Do you have any advice for young girls wanting to get into STEAM?
IG: My advice for young girls who want to get into STEAM is to find a group of girls who also like STEAM so you guys can work on projects together. Coming to Windward was such an amazing experience for me because for the first time in my life I was surrounded by so many girls who loved STEAM and it empowered me to always strive for more.
JL: I would advise girls who wish to become more involved in STEAM to always remember to remain confident in your ability and intelligence. It is sometimes easy to lose sight of your worth in fields that aren’t always welcoming, but try to remember that you are! Keep pushing forward and working hard, and take advantage of the many clubs Windward has to offer to promote both STEAM and Girls in STEAM!