GEMS (Girls Excelling in Math and Science)  http://www.gemsclub.org is a 25-year-old international network of STEM clubs for girls. We have clubs all over the world, serving girls in grades K-12. One of our western PA clubs won the Micro:bit opportunity, receiving a club pack, so we decided to have a day-long camp incorporating these wonderful little tools, learning about electronics, and a Skype visit from a New York engineer from Google. (The video only shows the elements of the day concerning the micro:bit) The area we live in is extremely beautiful, but poor, with all students in the schools eligible for free/reduced lunch. This kind of experience does not come along often.

 

We enrolled 10 girls and spent the day exploring and creating.

As you can see in the video, we opened the day with new t-shirts, which everyone immediately changed into. We then unboxed our micro:bits and learned a little bit about them.

We had group instruction on the programming, as the school district where these girls attend does nothing related to Computer Science.

We then used the books (attached) to work through some of the directed learning on programming and use of the Micro:bit.

 

https://youtu.be/ToNHYpT3eww

 

By the end of the day, each girl had successfully programmed her micro:bit to do at least three things scroll shapes or words, flash, and activate using buttons.

They were thrilled to be able to keep them, and as you can see in the book they took home, they were able to continue their learning. We are already planning a spring GEMS camp with these girls to extend their learning.

 

My reflections:

When I first started getting the materials ready, I planned and planned and thought we would go through the activities in the book together. But I totally underestimated the girls and their creativity.

Of course there were girls who were a little intimidated at first but each one of them just jumped in and tried different things. The three leaders (me included) made it clear at the beginning that you "Cannot break it", and just by luck, the Google engineer said the very same thing when she talked with girls over Skype at lunch. I need to remember that this usually happens, but I also need to be prepared for children who might need lots of direct instruction.

 

Very quickly after they started working on the interactive badge, some girls began experimenting with the different commands and by lunch time, some of them were deep into making the micro:bits talk to each other and send signals across the room. Other girls gravitated to the craft materials and began working on bracelets and pins so they could wear their creations.

 

By the end of the day, all of us were pleasantly tired bu energized to keep learning. As the parents picked them up, you could hear the girls showing off the bits with the games and words they had programmed.

 

I am so grateful to you all for this opportunity. GEMS clubs operate on a shoestring with local funding (or not) for each club. We do not have the funds to provide this kind of experience for the girls. I am certain that several of them will keep working with their bit and will have things to show us on the spring. I am also certain that the exposure to the programming inspired further exploration by a couple of the girls. I look forward to seeing what happens.