Friday, 19 July 2013

Tips for Setting up a Coding Club for Girls

In the new academic year you may be thinking about setting up a computing or maker style club at your school. You may be a student, a teacher, a parent or a volunteer. It's not always easy to attract girls to such a club, and I have many teachers emailing me and tweeting me asking for advice on getting more girls into their clubs. Here are my tips, some might work in your area better than others, and just because you implement them all does not mean your club intake will improve overnight. This is a long process, so you need to be committed for some time!

1. Branding

Do not call your club 'ICT Club' or 'Computing Club' as many students that you want to attract will think it's just another ICT lesson, and however fantastic your lessons are, and how much they enjoy them, the general question on all children's minds is, 'why do more class work?'. It has to be fresh, fund sounding, and different.

Code Club and Coder Dojo have had wonderful success. I think branding is part of this success (role models and good activities being the other parts) If you are running an inclusive club for all children then using gender neutral colours with a good name are important. If you are running a club specifically for girls I would avoid using too many pinks. (pot, kettle, black, I know) Something with a slick logo that could be put onto stickers would attract teenagers as they will think it is something a bit special for them, rather than just an ICT club to finish class work or homework.

2. Role Models

I can not emphasize enough the importance of good female role models in Computing and STEM full stop. If you want to attract girls to a club getting outside help is a good idea. I've met many people in industry who want to know how they can help schools with coding. Reaching out to this community would be a really good idea. Organisations like STEMettes, Science Grrl, CAS #include, Code Club and Coder Dojo might be the first step. Get them to come into lessons to help promote the club as well as help with the club activities themselves.

Role models can also come in the form of other students. If you have KS5 or KS4 girls who enjoy the subject who could help your club then snap them up quick. They can attend assemblies to drum up interest. If girls see other girls enjoying it, then they are more likely to want to have a go too. Perhaps there is a nearby college or university with students who could also offer expertise, advice and act as role models. I have a number of video interviews on my channel here to help inspire.

3. Gender Neutral Activities Vs. Gender Specific Activities

If you want to run a coding club for everyone I would highly recommend having projects and activities that are gender neutral. Girls will attend coding clubs where there are more boys if the activities are creative, imaginative and fun. I've attended Coder Dojo's where there were a large group of girls who were engaged on a Saturday morning. I asked the organiser and he said they made sure that all their project ideas were not gender specific. They never highlighted the fact that there were less girls. They had different projects all the time.

If on the other hand you want to run a club specifically for girls then there are more gender specific activities that might help engage the students.One of the big hitters in this group is e-textiles. It will involve some investment in LilyPad's or Floras but they could be reused, or crowd funded.

I am in the process of creating an e-textiles activity kit for clubs that will be a free download. As soon as it is complete I will link to it from here, so stay tuned! All the parts can be purchased from skpang in the UK and I'm hoping he will put the kit together when finished. They can also be bought from Adafruit in the US and other good electronic suppliers.

Other creative coding can include using Scratch to make animations or games. At #define a workshop event CAS #include ran in June, the most popular activity was the maKey maKey session. So much so that I've invested in getting five maKey maKey's for KS3 at my school. You could get kids to make weird controllers for any scratch games they make. I made a video on creating a soundboard in scratch which is activated with a maKey maKey:

Other activities I've seen at clubs include, making music on a Raspberry Pi using code called Sonic Pi, creating fireworks across a screen using code, and using Minecraft API on Raspberry Pi to make mini games inside Minecraft.

David Whale runs many successful clubs and blogs about them here. has lots of project ideas on his website especially raspberry pi tutorials. He also runs a club at a primary school.

4. Make it fun!

this is your opportunity to escape a programme of study! Do something cool, wizz bang, hands on, awesome. Short, easily achievable, creative tasks that take maybe a few weeks to complete are key. When I ran a girls only club, we even had a fashion show one week of all the projects. They LOVED it.

5. Scheduling 

Under no circumstances should you have this club at the same time as Netball, Rounders, Hockey, Choir, Orchestra or any other group practice. This is difficult, I know, but these will always take priority at your school, and fair play, PE teachers and Music teachers give up all their time to run these, so let's support them. If you have outside people coming in to help run your clubs, then you could be confined to when they are able to come.

So what are you waiting for? Go get the coolest club for kids up and running successfully at your school!

1 comment:

  1. These are great ideas! Just finished 4 days of Coder Dojo Girls: The Maker Party. Doing physical computing ala MaKey MaKey as well as learning about & making circuits by creating electronic greeting cards were a huge hit (a little cheaper than e-textiles too). More @