Girls STEMming Up Puts the Power in Girls’ Hands

 by
Leadership , Supporters in Action

By Connie Liu

As I bend my knees to the level of the computer screen, I look to my right to make eye contact with a girl in front of it. Her eyes are filled with slight frustration, confusion, but also immense excitement. In this room, girls, as young as six to as old as eleven, stare intently at their screens. Their excitement, passion, and fervor for learning is contagious. Room 167 holds more than just computers and motivational posters. It’s where Girls STEMming Up hosts coding events and I get to witness girls taking their first steps into the world of STEM.

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Like all great things, it started with something small. Initially, my personal research led me to the Girl Up Foundation. Seeing the engaged Girl Up community and the commitment to girls worldwide enticed me immediately. It led me to bringing together a community of girls that believe in gender equality and support females in STEM. Thus, Girls STEMming Up was created. As a club, getting involved with the community, giving back, and working with the younger generation became key factors in our actions. With two advisors that have young daughters themselves, they’ve both witnessed gender barriers confine their daughters. While many of the interests children have can be satisfied by playing on a sports team, going to an art class, or playing an instrument, coding is not that easily accessible — especially for girls. This is when the idea of hosting coding events came to mind.

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Establishing a personal connection among the girls and with mentors is the first thing to be done. Not only does it make the girls more comfortable, but it also makes coding seem less daunting. From introducing names to ice breakers, this eventually leads us into coding prompts. We use the website pencilcode.net, which is basic and user-friendly, but also allows for creativity. This is also why we give the girls are only a couple broad ones. Many of them quickly get used to pencilcode and are on their way to creating masterpieces before the snack break. As mentors, we support them, encourage them, give ideas, and learn along with them. Most of the mentors are not advanced in coding themselves, therefore, the coding event benefits more than just the young girls.

Personally, I’ve learned how to effectively communicate and collaborate when helping girls with their code. Yet the most crucial thing I’ve learned, is to always leave the mouse in the girls’ hands. Allowing them to figure out how to draw a square or how to create a picture of their favorite food is all the more satisfying for them if they did it themselves. At the end of the day, providing an easy, creative, and helpful way for these girls to explore STEM is the heart of these events.

Connie Liu is a Girl Up Club Leader from Connecticut. We are featuring her story of service in support of Fin Fun’s #AllFinsOnDeck initiative encouraging girls across the country to share their stories of service in their communities. Learn more at FinFriends.com