Monday, October 24, 2016

GirlsMake and GirlSquad – Making with Middle School Girls in the Library

Encouraging girls to explore and extend themselves in the technology sphere is a job I have given myself over the last 18 months or so. In a coeducational environment, the default position at my school has been that boys assume tech dominance. Our Tech Ninja program engages a cohort of only boys and it was clear that a similar girls’ group was necessary to promote technology learning and leading amongst our young women at school.

As a response to this, GirlsMake was launched in 2015. Girlsmake is a full day of technology fun and learning in our school's iCentre. Consistently we have 30 girls sign up for our termly tech days and its proved very popular with the Year 7 and 8’s. The purpose is to let girls have control – creating, coding, innovating, designing and investigating with our technology equipment. The freedom of a full day to explore is such a luxury that is supported by the school and run by me as teacher Librarian. Importantly I’ve enlisted the help of different female teachers around the school including maths and TAS staff and our amazing Head teacher of Learning Innovation.

Role modelling is an important aspect of the programme, and we invite women from outside the school when we can to participate, run workshops or just drop in and check out what we are up to.

A typical day will begin with an introduction to the day – sometimes a video (there’s some great resources online). Then we try and incorporate an activity that will include the whole group. That ensures that any girls who have attended on their own gets to know others in the group and encourages a camaraderie on the day. Sometime it will be a tech activity such as e-textiles but sometimes it will be collaborative critical thinking for example a Breakout EDU or Rube Goldberg challenge.

Breakout workshops are a feature of the day – it’s always great to include new equipment – that really is exciting – but old favourites such as creating with LittleBits, Minecraft, coding, programming Spheros or Ozobots are always popular. Workshop groups are generally 8-10 students which allows workshop leaders to get to know the girls and give individual assistance.

We can’t forget the important element – food – and the day usually includes a pizza lunch or something similar and morning tea. We put on music, decorate up the space and generally have a great time.
We post on Twitter and Instagram during the day and use our #girlsmake hashtag or follow us @sscl_icentre (insta) or @SSCL_LIBRARY twitter.

Workshop days are amazing fun and we really get the girls’ imaginations going with possibilities about where understanding technology, coding and making can take them but to sustain the interest we’ve this year launched “GirlSquad”.

GirlSquad is a session each week in the icentre for girls only. One recess per week we close the library to everyone but interested girls and we let loose with the tech equipment. A feature of GirlSquad is that we encourage low-tech making as well. So far this year we’ve had a card making workshop, book sculpture, knitting, wool weaving as well as play-time with the spheros, mini drones and ozobots. We enjoy some morning tea and chat about all sorts of things. We have two upcoming projects – one is a e-publishing project, we also have a group of girls ready to renovate, and do a techno fit out of a three story dolls house. Should be great fun!
There's lots of great material for craft in the Library online. Check out Instructables for ideas or browse magazines such as Frankie or Yen for what's trending.

Resources to get started with Girlsmake or GirlSquad can be found on my MS .docs resource