School program gets girls interested in technology

St. Margaret’s Elementary School is partnering with a local organization to get girls excited about technology.

St. Margaret’s Elementary School is partnering with a local organization to get girls excited about technology and generate female interest in joining a largely male-dominated field.

The partnership is between St. Margaret’s and Girls Learning Code, a youth arm of Ladies Learning Code, a national non-profit group dedicated to teaching women and girls computer engineering skills.

It is the first of its kind on the Island.

“It’s neat to be exposing the girls and showing them that it is something they can do. It’s totally open and accessible,” said Lauren Hudson, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program support teacher at St. Margaret’s.

“You would think in this day and age that stereotyping doesn’t happen, but it’s still a real part of life. That women have to fight to get into these male-dominated STEM careers.”

As part of the program, Girls Learning Code will host four workshops spread throughout the school year — the first of which was held earlier this month and taught students how to use Scratch — a program  about game design.

Roughly 40 girls ranging from eight to 13 and their parents showed up for the workshop.

“The girls had lots of pride when they were sharing their game. You could see it on their faces,” Hudson said.

“You’ve got nine-year-olds getting up to tell an audience of 80 people, just pleased as punch with the work she’s done coding a game. That’s powerful.”

Christina Jones, Girls Learning Code chapter lead for Victoria, said there is a demand on the Island for such programs.

“Women are still largely underrepresented in technologies. I think any opportunity presented where they can step to the front and show their ideas and get an interest before they’re ever told it’s not cool (is good),” she said, adding their adult workshops are usually sold out.

The next workshop at St. Margaret’s is in November and will focus on HTML and webpage design. The next two workshops focus on programming language and game design in February and April.

Ladies Learning Code started in Toronto and came to Victoria in 2014.