Joshua Eyaru, the Atlas Corps Fellow Coordinator assigned to Creating IT Futures, recently sat down with the TechGirlz Curriculum Manager, Donna Cusimano. They talked about the organization, our Python Programming curriculum, and what makes our workshops so easy to use and enjoyable for the girls to attend. The full article was originally published July 01, 2019 on the Inspiring Success – Creating IT Futures blog.
Do you have a phobia for coding? You are not alone; in fact, according to Very Well Mind, about 10% of people in the United States have specific phobias.
The good news is TechGirlz has made it easier for girls to overcome coding fears and learn the Python programming language through a free, three-hour workshop that introduces them to coding basics. The girls participate in hands-on activities like solving puzzles to practice the skills they have learned.
TechGirlz’s mission? To inspire girls.
The TechGirlz mission is, “to inspire middle school girls to explore the possibilities of technology to empower their future careers.”
Donna Cusimano has worked at TechGirlz since 2015. In her role as curriculum manager, Cusimano works with subject matter experts to develop new curriculum and update topics for TechGirlz.
“I attend each newly developed workshop to evaluate the content, take notes and observe,” Cusimano said, adding that she carefully considers feedback from attendees when finalizing a new workshop plan.
Cusimano also manages the “TechCamp in a Box” program, helping camp coordinators choose and use curricula for summer camp programs, no matter where they are located in the United States.
Recently, Cusimano converted TechGirlz’s Python workshop to make the high-school-level curriculum appropriate for elementary-aged girls.
Making tech less intimidating by making it fun
Key to all TechGirlz workshops is making technology user-friendly and fun, she said —empowering girls to believe that they are capable technologists for whom a career path in a still-predominately male industry is possible.
“The simplicity embedded in it makes children find programming in Python fun, engaging and simple,” she said. “In fact, the examples used make kids bring their daily games played with peers into a coding class.”
Not only are attendees excited about using Python in the workshop, Cusimano said, but they want to continue programming beyond their TechGirlz experience.
After a Python programming workshop held June 8, girls surveyed about their experience gave a rating of 4.2 to the questions, “I want to use what I learned” and “This made me more interested in tech,” on a scale where 1 was strongly disagree and 5 was strongly agree.
Individually, girls provided comments that included “I liked how it was challenging” and “I liked learning all the functions” – exactly what excites Cusimano, who is driven by the girls’ enthusiasm to learn new and challenging technology topics.
“With these stories and a simplified curriculum, I believe we can break this phobia and bring back our programming dreams to life,” she said.
Anyone can introduce technology to middle-school girls, thanks to TechGirlz. You don’t have to be an IT expert to volunteer your time and enthusiasm.