SRDS Middle School Girls Who Code Chapter is Getting with the Program

SRDS Middle School Girls Who Code Chapter is Getting with the Program
Beth Meleski

At Saddle River Day School, when we find a way to improve or enhance our student experience, we jump at the chance. So when Laura Hollis, Director of Technology, became aware of Girls Who Code, an innovative program with the mission to close the gender gap in technology education and careers, she and Head of School, Jalaj Desai, set about chartering a Girls Who Code chapter at SRDS for students in grades 3-5. What started as a one-time workshop has grown into an after school Coaching Academy program that has opened the eyes of a growing number of our female students to a whole new passion and possible career path.
This year, in addition to their regular meetings, SRDS Girls Who Code were invited on a daylong field trip to attend Codefest, an event sponsored by Girls Who Code in honor of the 10th anniversary of the program. The sixteen girls in attendance were able to participate in activities related to the Girls Who Code curriculum, experience the VR playground, participate in STEAM art activities, and meet the founder of Girls Who Code. More importantly, they were able to mingle with other girls who have similar interests and as we know, representation matters. 
Of course, students who are not in the Girls Who Code club still have the opportunity to learn the foundations and vocabulary of coding during the fall trimester at SRDS. Coding is taught until December at which time all students participate in an Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week. Coding lessons often extend throughout the school year. Additionally, a Boys Who Code club has been run intermittently according to demand. 
But the Girls Who Code curriculum isn’t just about inputting lines of code into the computer. It includes activities that allow participants to work collaboratively, and to problem solve as they write songs, record and edit videos, and practice storytelling and animation. The girls are encouraged to take risks, think creatively, and innovate. When they are working as a team, they are given the space to dream and to take ownership of their ideas. Ms. Hollis says one of her favorite things to see is the way the girls organize themselves into roles that showcase their strengths. She especially loves when the girls recognize and acknowledge the unique abilities of each of their teammates.  
The willingness to take a chance on something new is one of the traits that makes Saddle River Day School so special. Risk-taking is modeled by the administration and faculty who celebrate successes and normalize “learning opportunities.” In fact, developing thoughtful risk takers is part of the mission of SRDS where our flexibility and ability to pivot provide the support and soft landing for students to dare to try new things with courage and confidence. Because we know that just like a well-written computer program, success is coded into each of our students’ DNA.