On November 8, nineteen cities across Canada – from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Whitehorse, Yukon – hosted free events for National Girls Learning Code Day, a Ladies Learning Code initiative. I had the pleasure of mentoring at the English HTML and CSS workshop at Google’s Montreal office, while others volunteered at the French workshop a few blocks away.
Twenty girls aged 8-13 – supported by an array of moms, dads, aunts, and other grownups – took over the Googlers’ colourful conference and dining area. Several mothers told me their kids had dragged them here, their husbands usually being the techies in the family. I was glad their daughters persisted since I think the moms learned a lot too!
Throughout the day, the girls used Mozilla Thimble, a free tool that provides a side-by-side real-time preview while building a site. We went over basic HTML tags, using lots of easy-to-understand analogies and interactive questions at each step. Over the course of the morning, we built out a brilliant analogue web page on a big white board, to help visualize HTML page structure. Lead instructor Alex Ruaux kept the day lively, adding CSS to the mix after a kid-friendly lunch of pizza and (yes! guilty pleasure!) Rice Krispie squares. Other treats for the kids included stickers, funky “style your code” tattoos,” silicone wristbands, and even a Google loot bag laden with sunglasses and more goodies.
At the end of the day, each girl – except the shyest ones – got up and presented the web page they’d spent the day creating. From a dog-walking business to a compendium of April Fool’s stunts, to expressing their love for Super Cats, horses, dolphins, and of course, Minecraft, the girls’ passion for both their subject matter and the sites they’d built was clear.