Elmore County Schools is working diligently alongside STARBASE Maxwell 2.0 to help close the gender that exists in technology by providing a STEM program to middle school girls.

The program, Girls Who Code, kicked off this year in each of the district’s middle schools for girls in the sixth through eighth grades, according to Wetumpka Middle School principal Loukisha Brooks. 

“Historically speaking, STEM has been and continues to be a male dominated field,” Brooks said. “We will take advantage of any opportunity to expose our students to new and exciting possibilities. We want to provide information now about what is available for them, so moving forward, our students will have a better foundation for success. We don’t want to wait until they enter high school for them to begin thinking of the future.”

Through the program, STARBASE Maxwell 2.0 partners with the district to provide STEM curriculum and activities to female students, said Shirley Nance, a STARBASE Maxwell 2.0 program coordinator.

Nance leads the program at Wetumpka Middle School with the help of Ardrinnia Strum, the gifted and talented teacher, and Laconya Warwick, the eighth grade honors science teacher and robotics sponsor. 

The U.S. Department of Defense-funded program is free to participating students and the teachers receive a stipend for helping with the program. 

Participating students at each middle school meet once a week after school to learn the basics of coding. On Thursday, the 15 participating girls at Wetumpka Middle learned the concept of computer coding. The students learned that coding uses a computer language to communicate very specific instructions to the computer about what actions to perform.

To demonstrate this, one girl was blindfolded while another gave her directions on what to do in order to get to a certain point. In addition to helping the students develop an understanding of coding, Nance said the program teaches them about the importance of teamwork, communication, critical thinking and it helps to build a sisterhood. 

“We’re also teaching them how to be resilient and confident in themselves,” Nance said. “So if one idea doesn’t work, you try again. We’re teaching them how to compete in the tech world. It’s not just about how good you are at what you do, they also need to know to present themselves and have good verbal communication skills.”

Through the program, the girls will also complete a community-related project and meet female contributors in the tech world. 

The program kicked off Sept. 10 and will run through December.