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South Jordan Journal

Coding field trip gives girls confidence, eyes into future careers

May 21, 2018 02:46PM ● By Julie Slama

Speakers at the Girls who Code inspired South Jordan and other girls across the state to believe in themselves and not be afraid to make mistakes. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com

Elk Meadows sixth-grader Aspen Lindorff jumped at the chance to join the recently formed Girls who Code club at her school.

“It’s cool to do coding,” she said.

Girls who Code is a supportive club where girls can learn the concepts of loops, variables, conditionals and functions that form basic programming languages as well as provide some service through technology that will help their community. 

Aspen thought of creating a learning program for her brother, who is in kindergarten.

“It will help him learn his numbers, ABCs and get him reading through lessons we create,” she said.

While other girls will be helping her on the project, another team of girls were planning to work on an adventure story that will have a safety element included. They all were on a field trip headed to Adobe to meet with technology leaders. 

“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was really neat that there were leaders from several companies there who told us about careers and their paths, even that they were nerdy,” Aspen said. “They also told us to be confident and do what we like to do. They told us not to be discouraged or afraid, which is pretty cool.” 

The Girls who Code field trip, coordinated by the Utah STEM Action Center, had invited girls throughout the state to a conference in February that included Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, only to realize they had quickly maxed out on the 150 participants they planned for, said Tami Goetz, the Utah STEM Action Center executive director. 

So instead, a second set of field trips, which included substitutes for the teachers and transportation for the students, was set up April 25 for girls in the upper elementary grades. 

The field trip turned out to be similar to the club itself.

“We want to show girls what it’s like to work together in a safe environment to teach the essentials more than word documents or slides but to get them to understand coding, software and to do projects that make our world a better place,” Elk Meadows adviser Becky Rendell said. 

At Adobe, female technology leaders from corporations such as Microsoft and Dell as well as college students gave messages to the girls in attendance from across the state as well as those from Elk Meadows, Welby and Daybreak elementaries in South Jordan. Jordan Ridge girls attended the afternoon session.

It was Bayan’s CEO, Carine Clark, who lead the panel and discussion for the girls after a roaring cheer of “Girl Power” from about 300 girls.

“Girls are super smart, but culturally, girls who are super smart aren’t cool, and that is a mistake,” Clark told the girls. “We all don’t have to be coders, but we can be problem-solvers, and that is what is needed in the STEM world. We’re smart, so we should be looking at opportunities in the STEM careers for better paying jobs. Money doesn’t solve problems, but it does give options.”

Clark told the girls her story.

“I was nothing special,” she said. “I was super nerdy, shy, had short hair and ate lunch by myself. I didn’t have the courage to talk to others. I didn’t have friends, but I knew how to code — and coding taught me how to think differently and solve problems. We all should learn how to code. It doesn’t mean we all will be coders. I cook; I drive; and I’m not a chef or a driver. It’s just a skill like many that will help you. Look at me now. I’m a CEO, no longer that girl who doesn’t have friends. You are confident, bright, capable and strong already — plus you’re digital natives.” 

Through a panel discussion, girls, such as Elk Meadow’s Aliyah Hunting, Ella Cowley and Sonny Linnebach learned the importance of math in coding, to overcome being afraid of making mistakes, to accept their interest in the technology field, to help others learn, and to believe in themselves.

“I feel I will be a lot more confident in what I’m doing now,” Aliyah said.

Her classmate, Sonny, added, “And I’ll keep trying again and again, if I don’t get it the first time.”

Clark said believing in themselves was an important message for girls to understand. 

“Don’t let others make you feel bad, but stand up for yourself in what you want to do,” Clark said. “My mom wanted me to be a hairdresser. I wanted Legos for Christmas, and instead, I got a hairdryer, curling iron and wig. When I became successful, I was still told, ‘You can still learn to do a wash and set if you want to.’ She didn’t accept this is the career I wanted, but I did what I loved.” 

Elk Meadows sixth-grader Kailey Bevans said that learning stories of women in the career made it “more real.”

Her classmate, Teagan West, added: “These strong, amazing women are telling us we can do anything boys can do and can do it even better than them.”

Goetz said that she hoped the several speakers helped to break the barrier for girls who may fear math and science or won’t excel because it’s “not cool. But coding is exciting and cool, and this was designed to help break those barriers in young girls because they are the pulse of what is going to happen.”

Rendell also hopes this will help to break the stereotype where math and science is a boys’ world.

“They told the girls that they can do anything and it’s their time,” she said. “Historically, girls wait their turn, while boys jump in or speak up. We want to give these opportunities to girls.”

Elk Meadows’ sixth-grader Rylee Russell said she leaned there are more opportunities in coding than she realized before.

“I think it’s something I’d enjoy doing as a job, because I enjoy learning, building things and helping people,” she said.

At Daybreak, teacher Diane Holland came with members of her newly formed Girls who Code club.

“I liked that they promoted the girls and gave them advice and role models,” she said. “It’s a great message.” 

Welby teachers Haley McCall and Rani Li, who also advise the school’s First Lego League robotics teams and coding club, said that this event was the kickoff for their Girls who Code club. 

“This gives our girls the confidence that they can code,” Li said. “It’s in everything they do, so it will be in their future in some manner.”