By Heather Payne (Founder, Ladies Learning Code) We're getting ready to send acceptances to the girls who will be receiving scholarships to attend our Girls Learning Code March Break camp. (We're accepting them on a rolling basis, but the deadline isn't until February 15th - so there's still time to get an 11-14 year-old girl in your life involved!) The application forms are meant to mostly be filled out by the girls' parents, but we did ask the girls to complete one question on their own: "What interests you most about Girls Learning Code?"
As I reviewed applications last night, the answers to this question really stood out. They were just so...honest. Reading them definitely made me feel like taking the initiative to organize this camp is one of the most worthwhile things I've ever done. I'm sure Laura, Breanna and Melissa feel the same way. Reading these comments also makes me extra thankful to Mozilla, teehan+lax, Hubba, FreshBooks, Nascent, Xtreme Labs, and bnotions for making these scholarships possible. Thank you, all of you.
Here are some of the answers the girls provided as to why Girls Learning Code interests them (we're keeping them anonymous, of course):
"At first when my mom asked me if I wanted to take this class, I said I wasn't interested because I don't know a lot about computer stuff and I thought it would be boring. But then my mom showed me the timetable and it didn't look boring, it looked cool and we talked about ideas for a website, and how I could use this experience. I would like to learn how to do more internet stuff, and I think this will help me at school too. And I used to think I wasn't good at math, but with a new teacher this year, I finally understand things, so I think the camp could be like that, except with understanding the internet better."
"I would like to learn how to make fun and interesting programs and apps that interest girls like me. I like that this program is just for girls."
"I like the "about" section where it says we will "learn technology in a whole new light and as a medium for self expression". My favourite thing to do is dance. It is the best way I feel to express myself and how I feel. I don't want this to be the only way to express myself in the world. I love technology and I hope I can learn some new things that can help me to be more confident in the world."
"I think what interests me about Girls Learning Code is that it's just an amazing opportunity to learn more about what I use every single day. And this camp shows that girls can do something boys can do. Boys are always the ones who are assumed to be the good coders and gamers but there are such girls, like me and the other thousands or millions, who would want to learn all this stuff but we're usually never given the chance to learn. So this camp is giving those girls a chance for us to shine in what we love best."
"The Girls Learning Code interests me because I'm considering studying in the technological field. The Girls Learning Code sounds like it makes boring subjects more fun, interesting and interactive. It will give girls, like me, confidence to work in a field that is boy infested. One of the main points that interests me the most is that I will get to understand computers beyond just Facebook and Twitter. It would also be great to learn and meet others like me. And that is what interests me the most about the Girls Learning Code."
"What interests me the most is that I can program cool computer games to learn more advanced hacking and to have a job to make helpful kid friendly programs and websites."
"I would like to be part of the Girls Learning Code camp this year because I think it will help me discover how I can be creative with computers and technology. I enjoy learning about computers and ways you can use them, and have just started to learn about using the computer for artwork. I have been drawing and painting seriously since I was 4. My kindergarten teacher told me that I am destined to be an artist. Over the last few years I have won awards for my artwork from [award names removed].
I think I would benefit from the Girls Learning Code camp because I could learn to make my own beautiful websites and showcase my art work, and do the same for my friends. I would like to make a difference in my community. I feel like one way I can do that through my art is by helping people start conversations. People who share a moment to appreciate artwork start conversations that lead on to other, important things."
I had a few other thoughts as I was reading these responses over.
First, I thought, "Wow...kids these days are really mature." Second, I was struck by how their answers all seemed to be sort of in sync, even though these girls have never met. And third, I was surpsied by how much the girls-only nature of the camp means to many of them - it certainly seems like, even at the age of 11 or 13, there is already a socially-accepted understanding of what is for girls, and what is for boys.
Even though I've known for a long time that society, the media, peer groups, etc. affect girls and their decisions at a young age, I've never had it feel so real before. On the one hand, it's upsetting. But on the other hand, it means there's an opportunity for Girls Learning Code to make a difference. Oh, and I'm really excited that the idea of technology and the web being a medium for creative expression came through - a number of the girls commented on that - because that's exactly what we were going for.
I hope you enjoyed this episode of Warm-Your-Heart Tuesday. And, by the way, there's still time for you to get involved in the March Break camp - as a volunteer, a sponsor, or a camper. Feel free to get in touch with me at heather [at] ladieslearningcode.com for more information.
Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Heather Payne is the Founder of the Ladies Learning Code, a not-for-profit organization working to empower everyone to feel comfortable learning beginner-friendly technical skills in a social, collaborative way. She blogs at heatherpayne.ca. Follow her on Twitter at @heatherpayne, or email heather [at] heatherpayne [dot ca]. Note the .ca!