Girls Who Code club a huge success at Lake Ridge

Members of Lake Ridge Elementary School’s first computer coding club listen to instruction during their meeting on Monday. Girls Who Code is in its first year at the school, and has proven to be very popular among third- and fourth-grade girls at Lake Ridge. Photos by Collin Brooks

By Dave Ongie, News Editor

When Rebecca Weems walked into the first Girls Who Code meeting at Lake Ridge Elementary School last fall, she admits to feeling a little apprehensive.

What if the girls in the room knew more about coding than she did? Sure, she was interested in computer coding, but she was nowhere near an expert. Looking back now, she admits the whole experience was a bit intimidating.

But that’s exactly why Weems, a third-grade teacher at Lake Ridge, wanted to start the coding club for girls, which launched at the school last fall.

“One thing that resonated with me, not having that skillset I needed, it took a certain amount of tenacity for me to want to do that,” Weems said about starting the club. “I knew the girls were going to have to have that same driving force behind them, too. If they had that bravery and empowerment behind them, they’d be able to do it, too. I just love the character building it brings to them.”

“The intention was to offer it one day a week to kids,” Weems said. “We had such a good turnout we expanded that to two days.”

Lake Ridge had never had a coding club exclusively for girls before, and Weems would have never thought to start the all-girl afterschool organization if she hadn’t stumbled upon the Girls Who Code program last summer. Weems was taking a coding class over the summer through ETSU when she learned about Girls Who Code and their mission to close the gender gap in technology.

“I love the connections I can make with kids outside of the regular classroom setting, so personally, I’m always looking for a reason to work with kids in a different capacity,” Weems said.

So she took the idea of starting a Girls Who Code club at Lake Ridge back to Renee Wood, the school’s principal, and Wood was fully supportive of Weems’ idea. When word got out that third- and fourth-grade girls at the school could join the coding club last fall, the response was a bit overwhelming.

Lake Ridge teacher Rebecca Weems started the club after learning about the Girls Who Code program last summer.

“The intention was to offer it one day a week to kids,” Weems said. “We had such a good turnout we expanded that to two days.”

As she expected, some of the girls who joined the club were well beyond Weems’ base knowledge of coding, but that has not kept Weems from helping the more advanced girls from expanding their knowledge.

“I was impressed with what a lot of them knew coming in, but I’ve seen growth in all of the girls,” Weems said. “They’ve just really grown and I think their curiosity has been the driving force behind that, too.”

After a successful launch, Weems believes the sky is the limit for the club. She hopes more adults at the school get involved so the club can expand to meet the expected growth at Lake Ridge as current members talk the club up to their friends and younger siblings.

Weems would also like to see the club expand up to Indian Trail so the current members will be able to tackle more complex objectives not offered at the elementary level. But more than anything, Weems wants to cultivate and expand an environment where girls can tackle their fears and expand their horizons.

“I love that Girls Who Code really has an empowerment theme behind it,” Weems said. “It wants to empower females to do better, to be better and really be brave in venturing out of what is the norm for them.

“No matter what it is, girls can.”


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