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Coding Cougars

Coding Cougars

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What started as an idea in the principal’s office quickly became the hottest ticket at Crichfield.

Last school year, Mrs. Biggs, Crichfield principal, brought the idea of starting a Girls Who Code club to STEAM Team member and future Project Lead the Way teacher Mrs. Talbert. Talbert jumped at the idea of bringing this national program to Cougars students, and it was brought to fruition this school year.

Girls Who Code is a national organization that aims to alter the stereotypes of gender surrounding STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers. The group, which offers curriculum, summer programs, and assistance to clubs, wants to help bring girls into a male dominated field by teaching girls the skills needed, thus erasing the idea women should steer clear of this work.

“This club follows a curriculum based on the goal of closing the gender gap in technology related fields. The programs educate, equip, and inspire girls to see women in the fields of STEM. Lessons are geared to help build confidence in science, technology, engineering and math skills,” Talbert said.

While it was important to encourage the girls to find their place in STEM, Talbert did not want to leave the boys out from an opportunity to learn and grow more in this area, too, as Crichfield has become more intentional about infusing STEM into the entire school. It didn’t take long before the boys’ club filled up as well.

“Girls and Boys Who Code clubs enrich many of the STEM lessons that are taught during classroom lessons. During our after school programs, students are able to dive deeper into the curriculum and really expand on their interests. They can work on projects that span over weeks and take time to culminate. The students return to the classroom and enhance future lessons,” Biggs said.

Initially, Talbert and Biggs thought of capping the clubs at 20 members in grades 3-5, but when interest spiked, both Biggs and Talbert wanted to make sure students who wanted to be a part of the program had the opportunity. Incredibly, 47 girls and 44 boys showed up to be a part of the magic.

The clubs met once a week, and the meetings were set up the same way each week. They consisted of a snack, a team building activity, and a passage they read about STEM, coding, or people in STEM related fields. Students then completed a coding or technology based activity.  

The students found themselves working on and creating highly engaging projects. Students worked on color coding, block coding, and even dabbled with Javascript. The Cougars used Scratch, where they made music, wrote block code and animated their name. They also worked with Ozobots and Lego Wedo 2.0 after volunteers from the library came to a meeting and showed how each tool operated.

The volunteers even showed students a robotic arm that was created on the library’s 3-D printer. They showed how this functioned and why people need prosthetic devices. Club members then worked with the Lego Wedo kits and built a grabbing arm themselves. After building the arm, students developed code to make it operate.

It was clear to Talbert that the students were not only learning a great deal but also loving every second of it.

“Students were very enthusiastic about the meetings. They loved working with other students and building new friendships across the grade levels. Students came to me during the day to tell me what they did at home or in their classroom. I also had students who got online to purchase Ozobots and told me all about what they were doing with their new tech toys. It was very rewarding as a teacher to have students so excited about their learning,” Talbert said.  

With the large numbers, Talbert needed extra help, and after reaching out to various high school educators, she had two Slicer volunteers who showed up weekly to help the Cougars out with their coding projects. Senior Chloe Cloutier and freshman Wes Owens were invaluable to the success of the program as were many other community helpers.

“Chloe Coutier and Wes Owens were the two amazing high school helpers. I could not have done it without their help. Both students were great role models. Each week, the elementary students looked forward to having them come in. We also had a wonderful role model–Dr. Megan Quinn–who came one week to the Girls Who Code Club. She helped with the activity and guide students on the robotic arm lesson. We also had a business partner from B&B Manufacturing. An employee volunteered to help with the Boys Who Code Club. It was great to have an extra set of hands,” Talbert said.

This push for STEM has paid off in dividends for the Cougars. This year, the VEX IQ Robotics Club qualified for State, and just this month, Crichfield was named a STEM Certified School by the Indiana Department of Education. It’s not just after school clubs where STEM can be found. Classroom lessons are now infused with it.

“As part of our STEM certification process we sought out additional STEM related activities for our students. We are thankful that the state provided the Girls Who Code curriculum for our students. Additionally, we work closely with the LaPorte Public Library and appreciate the STEM activities that they provide for our students, along with lessons for both students and teachers,” Biggs said.

The sky is the limit for the Cougars, and it might just be a Crichfield student who cracks the code to get them there!

 

  

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