Fan Letter to Computer Science Teachers: You are the Coding Heroes

Posted on behalf of Elizabeth Vandenburg, GEMS Public Outreach Director and Founder of GEMS-Nova Labs Girl Makers. 

As we prepare for next week’s Computer Science Education Week as well as the “Hour of Code” initiative, Girls Excelling in Math & Science (GEMS) thanks YOU, the computer science teachers who are walking the walk every day, teaching and motivating students to pursue computer science. GEMS particularly thanks you for creating inclusive girl-friendly computer science classrooms.

Like Computer Science Teachers Association, GEMS is a NCWIT K-12 Alliance member, using and seeing results from research-based strategies to reach an important goal for gender equity in tech,  “50/50 by 2020.”

I’ve heard hundreds of great stories about what teachers do to support girls and tech. One teacher, Laura Reasoner Jones, who -founded GEMS, ran a STEM after school club in Northern Virginia for 20 years. She plastered her walls with posters of female role models. One day, a 4th grader named Maria, who ate her lunch every day with Jones, turned to the “Expect the Best From a Girl and That’s What You’ll Get” poster behind her and asked, “Do you really believe that?” When Jones replied an empathic yes, Maria stood taller. “I could tell she felt differently about herself, “ said Jones.

sphero photo

So here’s a GEMS challenge for your CSEdWeek/Hour of Code event: Tweet a photo of your girls participating during the week of December 8-14 and tag with @GirlsExcelling // #CSEdWeek. Photo ideas include girls (and boys!) holding up posters of female role models, pictures of girls’ actual STEM work, or girls participating in an Hour of Code/CSEdWeek activity. Please remember to obtain consent from your students’ legal guardian(s) prior to posting pictures.

Should you require a poster for this challenge, or just to stimulate thinking in your classroom, offers two promotional posters featuring women. Everyone who participates will be entered into a drawing for a Sphero 10 pack for your classroom!

Next week’s activities are important for the growth of computer science education, but make no mistake, your daily work is where the change happens.