May 30, 2014
You know what sounds fun? Getting pulled out of class the Friday before Memorial Day to make a webpage about whatever you want.
On Friday, May 23rd, twenty 6th-8th grade girls from Harrison Park School got to do just that as part of Bitcamp 2014. They came over to the App Dev space at OST to learn basic HTML and CSS from some of our female developers. Harrison Park is just a few blocks from OST’s Grand Rapids campus, so it was great to be able to partner with one of our neighbors. These particular girls were Challenge Scholars, which means they’ve shown academic potential and will receive special learning opportunities and, upon successful graduation from high school, money to attend college. The goal is to enable them to succeed at the university level when they may be the first ones in their families to do so.
I’m not a teacher, and there’s a reason for that. Sitting behind a computer screen writing code comes much more naturally to me than interacting with junior highers. My fellow Bitcamp teachers may have been slightly more qualified but obviously OST believes in me and wants to provide me with opportunities to grow and use my expertise in unexpected ways. I was thrilled to be a part of this, since I truly believe coding (especially making your first web page, with customized colors and links that pop up right after you hit save and refresh!) is a blast, and wish that more girls were exposed to it at a young age.
It was a challenge to convey some of the abstract concepts inherent in programming in a way that pre-teens who had never heard of HTML could understand and relate to. Most of them left understanding a lot and being confused about a lot (which is approximately how I feel after attending any tech lecture). But by the end, we could tell many of them were having fun getting creative with custom colors, links to their favorite sites, and pictures (boy bands were a theme) embedded in their own unique web pages. The goal wasn’t to teach them everything about web development, or to make them HTML and CSS experts. My hope was that at least one of the students would leave thinking (1) that she is capable of doing this and (2) that she might enjoy doing something like this. A little inspiration is all it takes, and I think that happened on Friday.