Girls First Digital Studio

Engaging girls in technology subjects through a curriculum focused on computational skills and exposure to female STEM professionals

Girls First Digital Studio is a workshop in which female youth aged 12-17 participate in teams, experiencing computational design processes. This twice-occurring 30-hour workshop takes place at New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) and exposes participants to everything from conceptualization to prototyping and production.

CoderDojo, Willie Mae Rock Camp, Brooklyn College Community Partnership and Global Kids collaborate on Girls First Digital Studio. These partners recruit participants, provide feedback on the curriculum, help guide participants through the project ideation process, offer recommendations on evaluation, review progress and assist with mid-course corrections.

Girls participating in the project experience a variety of specific technology and other valued skills such as computational thinking, collaboration and problem-solving. For example, the curriculum included a series of design challenges including homesteading, building sculptures and creating a dream or nightmare sequence. These challenges were cumulative, requiring the application of previously acquired and newly developed skills. New World Studio, a virtual world platform, was the main application that participants used to build their designs. As an open-source platform, it enables the creation of unique 3D designs and allows participants to continue their learning off-site. In the real world, the program provides these typically under-served learners with exposure to women working in Science Technology Engineering and Math and other digital disciplines. One such visitor, Katya Hott, Project Manager at BrainPOP, gave a presentation on her background, academic career, and work as well as answered questions from program participants.

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Project Implementation and Discovery

The first months of the project were focused on project planning, such as recruitment of partner organizations, curriculum development and evaluation design. The experience of delivering the project to its first cohort fed into a series of modifications to the curriculum, which were implemented for the second session a few months later. These changes were perceived as having improved participant experience.

Organizational Impact

The Girls First Digital Studio has allowed NYSCI and its partners to create, test and improve the program model and curriculum. It has also facilitated the forming of new partnerships between participating organizations and yielded results that are sufficiently conclusive to create a template for other Hive NYC institutions to use.

Organizations have been excited to collaborate with NYSCI and participate in this program. For example, the Girl Scouts hired NYSCI to run the curriculum for their Girl Scouts Leadership Initiative summer program. The Girl Scouts reported that they thoroughly enjoyed the flexibility of the curriculum, series of design-based challenges, focus on young women, and engaging digitally-based activities. In the future, NYSCI plans to continue to scale the program through inter-organizational collaboration, including CoderDojo NYC, Girl Scouts of Greater New York, Sports and Arts in School Foundation, and Computer Resource Center at the NYC Parks Department.

Participant Feedback

Participant outcomes for the project were in keeping with its original objectives. Fifty young women from under-served communities became involved, with 82% reporting an increase in interest in—and excitement for—computing topics. All of the participants demonstrated an improvement in computational thinking skills and were better able to construct virtual spaces using a variety of digital techniques. Participants developed 21st century learning skills such as collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving.

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Target Audience

The target audience for the project was underserved female youth aged 12-17 years. The first iteration of the program engaged 60 participants, including those representing numerous Hive organizations such as CoderDojo, Brooklyn College Community Partnership, Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls and Global Kids.

Challenge and Resolution

One challenge faced by the project was engaging an extremely dynamic cohort of young females representing different organizations, with differing participation styles, and varying in age from 12-17 (as well as one very gifted student aged 10).

To promote more synergy within this diverse group, discussion and other activities were incorporated into the curriculum. This allowed the girls to get to know each other and more fully participate in the programming on offer. It also created an open environment where team-work and mentorship (for example with older students helping the younger students) flourished throughout the 30-hour program over the week.

Lead Organization:
New York Hall of Science

Partner Organizations:
Coder Dojo , Willie Mae Rock Camp , Brooklyn College Community Partnership , Global Kids

Project Goal:
Develop and test a computing and digital technology education program that can be used effectively with underserved female youth, connecting girls to female professionals working in STEM fields and/or with digital media.

Project Tags:
Games & Game Design, STEM, Youth Development & Leadership

Project Portfolio