Girl participants are exceeding the number of boys by 2:1 in an innovative coding program run by a volunteer mum and geotechnical engineer in inner-east Brisbane.
Since June 2015, Bulimba State School students have been participating in extra curriculum Coding classes, which have been expanded in 2017 to include Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths (STEAM) programs, including popular coding and entrepreneurial courses which are taught by local vendors.
Volunteer mum and geotechnical engineer Lee Brentzell, who launched the program, said that the program has been successful in attracting a large number of girls through a proactive approach.
“I believe the program has attracted a large number of girl participants due to a combination of being mindful regarding our targeting, one-on-one conversations with girls, the strong female role model mentors involved and encouragement from principals, teachers and parents alike,” Ms Brentzell said.
“As an engineer and mother to two girls, I realised the importance of being a STEAM ambassador to inspire kids and parents to keep up with latest digital technologies and how STEAM skills are a fundamental life skill for more than 70% of future jobs.”
The feedback from the girl participants has been overwhelmingly positive, with a number of girls, including Year 5 Bulimba State School students Mary Donnan and Lily Pitman, openly commenting on the program highlights and benefits.
“Trying out new things with my friends that I have never done before like new code to make a Ghost Busters game and linking games to the awesome Makey-Makey kit are my highlights,” Miss Donnan said.
“This course was the first step up from just doing coding things at home and sparked my interest in the possible opportunities to learn much more cool stuff in the world of coding.”
“I have had a lot of fun throughout and being exposed to coding was really interesting as it helped me turn my ideas into real things that work,” Miss Pitman said.
“The course combined all the things I love doing, like coding, maths and inventing things and the process in coding helps me think things through in order before completing tasks, which I can apply to other areas of my life.”
Ms Brentzell said that she mentored a group of eight- and nine-year-old-girls to compete in the 2016 ‘TechGirls are Superheroes’ competition where the girls created an app in the form of a game to educate children on making better environmentally choices every day to reduce environmental impact.
“When their friends saw them on TV and getting lots of social media coverage, the word soon spread that coding was cool and plenty of other girls, teachers and parents wanted to join in,” she said.
Research shows that it is preferable for coding to be taught at an early age, just like a second language, and that students need to learn in a new way that encourages computational thinking, problem solving, collaboration with others and creativity.
Principal of Bulimba State School Michael Zeuschner said that it is critical for girls to be encouraged and supported into STEAM endeavours now.
“The girls are building capability and knowledge in areas not traditionally engaged in by girls, which will hopefully open doors to the future.”