‘Girls Who Code’ club at Hamilton school overflowing

Dozens of young girls spend an hour of their school day sitting engrossed on computers at a Hamilton elementary, working to crack the code to later success in technology studies and perhaps even careers.

Welcome to Highland Elementary’s “Girls Who Code” club — a first-year experiment in teaching young girls computer program coding — and one of the growing local examples of a booming national trend of exposing young students to creative aspects of computer science.

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Coding allows youngsters to learning the basics of computer programming as the create, manipulate and progress through various, self-guided learning games. The practice not only introduces young students — in Highland’s case kindergarten through third grade — but also helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity.

“Technically they are solving puzzles and learning a computer language,” said the club’s founder and 1st grade teacher Karen Reddin. “These kids are actually solving problems in the language of coding.”

The once-a-week club is the latest example of this Butler County district’s various efforts to expand science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning to all students.

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According to a National Assessment Governing Board’s study last year less than half of America’s eighth-graders are considered proficient when tested on technology literacy.

Reddin had a good kind of problem when she created the once-a-week school club in January when dozens more girls than expected signed up to join.

Reddin was expecting only a portion of the 60 girls who joined.

“I started thinking I would get 20 girls and 60-plus girls have shown up. It’s a fun challenge for them,” she said.

On a recent day, the girls sat at desks spread throughout the school’s library — some wearing head phones — keenly focused on their various coding tasks.

“Look at them, it’s amazing and they are so enthusiastic,” said Reddin.

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Why an all-girls coding club?

Nationally women comprise about half of all professions using advanced math but in the increasingly lucrative and influential computer science fields men outnumber women by a 4-to-1 margin.

And computer science is also the top paying college degree with an average starting salary of $68,000.

Reddin said school officials are considering adding a boys coding club next school year.

Highland Principal Ty Smallwood said, “Girls Who Code is extremely popular.”

“Computer literacy and science is so important to get kids started early and we have teachers who are really embracing that here at Highland,” said Smallwood.

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