Girls Learning Code March Break Camp makes tech skills fun for girls

Girls Learning Code logoMarch Break was a blast for 35 Toronto-area girls aged 10 to 14 who spent the week learning  how to create websites and games at the Girls Learning Code March Break Camp. Many had little computer experience but that didn’t stop them diving right in to conquer tech skills like coding to transform their ideas into fun websites, games or cartoons.

And, in additional to all the regular fun of camp, the girls learned about cool careers in tech on field trips. They talked to young, female entrepreneurs who are using tech skills to make their own businesses at Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone and visited Google’s Toronto office.

The camp was run by Ladies Learning Code, a group of women teaching other women (and men) basic programming and technical skills. The camp was hosted by Mozilla, a non-profit organization promoting webmaking skills and digital literacy for everyone. Mozilla is best known as the creator of the Firefox web browser.

Heather Payne, founder of Ladies Learning Code, helping out a camper at Girls Learning CodeCareerMash was a sponsor of the camp and I was one of the many volunteer instructors. The majority of the instructors were women working in tech or studying tech in post-secondary programs.

It was fun to see all the cool and creative ideas that the girls turned into impressive websites even though the organizations weren’t real. Some girls came up with ideas for a non-profit they called Caps for Cancer where volunteers knit caps for kids undergoing chemotherapy and sell other knitted products Other girls focused on web projects that could make money like GidKame, a portal for cool games but would still benefit charities by donating 10 percent of its fictious proceeds to kids’ causes. 

Girls Learning Code campers presenting their projectMany of the groups created online games, animations, videos, online quizzes and more with the mad coding skills they learned at camp. After what they learned at camp, they can now make computer games and animations with Scratch , write basic programs with Python and create websites by mashing up existing web pages with Hackasaurus.

If you’re bummed that you missed out on this cool experience, don’t despair. It’s not too late to pick up some skills on your own. There are tons of step by step guides online, like these:

  • Create your own MadLib with Python. The School of Webcraft is a free online school with lessons that help you learn to code from peers. The step by step instructions are easy to follow and there are  volunteers to help you out if you run into trouble.
  • Make your own game or interactive story with Scratch: No code required! Simply drag and drop program elements and piece them together. Here’s a lesson plan to get you started. Try out some of the games on the Scratch community page, or this game, Maria’s Candy, made by a nine year old girl at Girls Learning Code.
  • Design your first website without knowing any code. With Hackasaurus, you can mash up and change any web page you like, publish it on the internet and share it with your friends. Have you ever wanted to be on the front page of the Globe & Mail or Sports Illustrated? Well now you can!

Do you know of any online tools to teach yourself code? Let us know.

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