Written by Annie Ghrist, TechGirlz instructor and volunteer
About a month ago, I volunteered to lead the Designing Mobile Apps workshop at Grover Cleveland Mastery Charter School’s after school program. Going into the workshop, I had a few concerns due to the school setting. Because the girls all went to school together, I assumed there would be more temptation for them to talk to each other instead of focusing on participating in the workshop. Also, I knew there was a chance that the girls would be more cliquey and that some girls would end up being excluded. Nevertheless, I was excited to get to teach in a new setting.
Despite my apprehensions, the workshop went extraordinarily well. While the girls did separate themselves into groups as I had predicted, there was none of the cliquey or exclusive behavior that I had expected. Everyone was very friendly and excited, girls would shout across to their friends to “come look at this cool thing I did!”, and all of the groups had great ideas and sketches. The workshop topic was perfect for the setting, allowing the girls to work in groups with their friends and talk amongst themselves while they worked. Also, the fact that the workshop was mostly hands-on, team-based work made the workshop much more accessible.
Overall, the advice I would give to someone running a workshop at an after school program would be to keep things simple, hands-on, and self-contained, and to keep the overall feel of the workshop more relaxed and informal. Choose a workshop that lets the girls work collaboratively, and let them divide themselves up into teams. Also, make sure the workshop topic is hands-on and doesn’t involve listening to a long explanation or informational lecture before getting to work (the girls will be tempted to talk). Girls may come late or have to leave early, so try to choose a topic that can be quickly explained and that lets the girls start working right away. Lastly, be sure keep the resources of the school in mind when choosing a topic; for example, schools may or may not have enough computers to do a computer-based workshop.
My Takeaway Tips:
- Making teams based on groups girls sat in naturally, instead of dividing them up myself. I had to place some latecomers in groups, but would recommend letting the girls choose their own teams/groups.
- Choose a workshop topic that allows for collaborative work and that is very hands on. Don’t choose a topic that is mostly sitting and listening to a lecture. Pay attention to the school that the workshop is at and what resources they have, and choose a workshop topic accordingly (ex. Don’t choose a computer-based workshop for a school that has little to no computer access).
- Workshops held in an after school program don’t tend to run the usual 3 hour time length that most TechShopz in a Box are intended for, so choose an easily condensable topic.