Girls’ Code Camp: A Reflection

I’m Charity and I have been working with Code Naturally’s lead educator, Joey, to teach students how to create games and abstract art using code. This summer, Code Naturally partnered with Cabrillo to provide students with 4 code intensive one week summer camps. The last week was a girls only coding camp and I noticed 4 key differences between the way girls and boys learn computer science.

  • Girls ask a lot more questions: I noticed that the girls tended to ask a lot more questions than the boys. They asked a lot of  “why’s”, which gave them the understanding they need for later lessons. Boys tend to struggle through their problems before asking a question. In computer science, struggling through problems teaches students how to code independently. So we answer the good questions that the girls ask, but also encourage them to experiment and try their own solution before giving them the answer.

  • Girls focus on the visual aspects more so than boys: Another thing I noticed is that boys focus less on the visual aspects of their games and more on the background operations. While the girls will get the operations in their game and then spend a significant amount of time developing the graphics.
  • They learn the details before moving on: The girls in our All Girls Camp took the time to learn the nuances and give us their full attention when going over new material. This made it easier for them to get programming and not rush through big concepts. The boys on the other hand constantly wanted to jump to the next thing before fully rounding out a lesson.
  • They were easier to work with: We were lucky to have students that were patient and excited to learn the subject matter. The boys often got a little too excited about the gaming side of programming and would get a little distracted playing games and pursuing ideas that might not be achievable in the time frame that we had together. The girls on the other hand were awesome and listened to instructions and followed through on projects before rushing on to the next thing.

The majority of students in co-ed camps are boys, and this can be discouraging for the few girls that are in the camps. It makes it harder to ask questions and reveal the fact that one might be confused in that kind of environment. Girls around the world tend to outperform boys in both math and science. A study from the University of Missouri “found that girls are outperforming boys in reading, mathematics, and science literacy by age 15, regardless of political, economic, social, or gender-equality issues and policies found in those countries”. However, outperforming boys in these subjects doesn’t lead to more female engineers here in our community. The only way we can do that is to change how girls perceive themselves and what they can do. That’s why the goal of our camp was to to ensure that they perceive STEM activities not as something that boys or girls do, but instead as a hobby or interest that anyone can pursue.