This is a guest post by Anthony Negron, Manager of Digital Programming at The New York Hall of Science.
After attending the 2013 Emoti-Con! event held at The New York Public Library, I remember truly being in awe of the intelligence, talent, and dedication from all of the participating youth representing various Hive NYC organizations. I left that event inspired and excited to brainstorm ideas that would allow for more cross-collaboration among Hive youth, and began thinking about a platform for youth to expose their peers to the programs that they had participated in.
We eventually created Girls First Digital Studio, a series of two, 30-hour workshops at NYSCI where participants, working in teams, experience the entire process of computational design from conceptualization to prototyping to production. The overarching goal of the program is to develop and test a computing and digital technology education program that can be used effectively with underserved female youth, and to expose girls to female professionals who work in STEM fields and/or with digital media. We received a grant from The Hive Digital Media Learning Fund in The New York Community Trust, and invited a handful of Hive members to participate including:
We were very much looking forward to working with these organizations as they offer a diverse portfolio of programs–a mix ranging from game development and programming to social justice and global education. Some of the key partnership elements included recruitment (up to 5 students from each partner organization), providing feedback on curriculum development, guiding participants during the project ideation phase, and offering recommendations regarding the evaluation.
During the first three days of the program, Ray Ferrer, Digital Learning Curriculum Developer at NYSCI, taught participants–who ranged in age from 12-18–how to use New World Studio, an open-source, virtual world platform. We selected this software due to its design quality in a virtual space and its ability to allow students to continue developing their skills at home even after the program was over.
The girls participated in a series of design challenges including homesteading, building sculptures, and creating a dream or nightmare sequence. These challenges were cumulative, requiring application of previously acquired and new skills.
Besides a few technical issues with the platform, our main challenge involved the age difference between the girls. As the days progressed, the older students began to act more in a mentor role to the younger students and worked with them to help develop their designs. As an educator, this was great to see because it happened so organically and we saw a lot of amazing collaboration and camaraderie take place amongst all of the participants.
During the last two days of the program, the girls planned and designed virtual projects that showcased various themes inspired by the organization that recruited them. For example, students from CodorDojo NYC built a digital sculpture that demonstrated how much they enjoyed programming with Scratch (free programming language and online community where you can create your own interactive stories, games, and animation).
Participants from BCCP developed a 3D sculpture of a recording studio to represent how much they enjoyed the music programming that takes place at BCCP.
On the final day, students presented their projects to family members, friends, and fellow NYSCI co-workers. The format was an informal, science-fair type atmosphere and nearly 20 guests stopped by to view the amazing work that these young women had built.
You can read more about the program here. Currently, we are in the process of making some adjustments to the curriculum as we prepare for our second cohort to join us during the week of April14th-18th.
This has been an exciting program with a larger and more diverse group of organizations than we’ve worked with in the past. We all bring different perspectives to the program, but have a shared goal to give girls an outlet for expression using digital tools, and to give them an opportunity to explore new interests and share and reflect on their experiences with their peers. I am very proud to be a part of a network that cultivates innovative projects and is filled with amazing educators who truly want to make a difference in the way young people learn. I look forward to being at Emoti-Con! 2014 and seeing the remarkable talent that Hive NYC youth have to offer.