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Moulding Future #Girlbosses

August 19, 2016

The purpose of our camps is to expose girls to experiences where they aren’t just users but builders of technology. Showing girls how technology can help them be creative and change the world. Our camps aim to give the girls a unique experience with technology that will encourage more girls to pursue STEM careers, to educate girls on the importance of being tech savvy and have some coding skills as it relates to a variety of career paths and not just programming. It’s less about teaching hard core coding skills and more about getting girls comfortable with and excited about technology and to use technology as a tool for change. So how do we accomplish this? What do our camps look like?

Day One

Day one is much like the first day of school, reluctant parents dropping off shy girls. We show parents around the camp and get girls to make button name tags and decorate warm fuzzie bags. Warm fuzzie bags are paper bags that each camper makes. The other campers then leave warm fuzzies inside them. A warm fuzzie is a kind note, a craft, a memory. Anything kind that the camper can make to share with another camper. We avoid cold pricklies. One rule about warm fuzzie bags, no peaking. Each girl can take her bag home at the end of the week and open it up to read all the notes and relive her camp memories.

We kick of the camp with some intros and an icebreaker, rules and housekeeping. Camp has three rules; be kind, try your best, and ask questions. The girls are then divided into teams based on age group and we immediately jump into brainstorming. Coming up with causes and ideas that are important to the group members. These causes will be the focus of our work for the rest of the week.

This March Break we were very lucky to be hosted by FreshBooks for our March Break camp. A trendy little office in the Junction, and by little I mean huge! FreshBooks is a pretty cool place to hang out for a week. They have naps rooms, videos games, a gym, a hammock. The employees of FreshBooks are definitely A-players and they offered to lead all of our workshops for the week. Many of our mentors came from FreshBooks as well.

Our first workshop lead by Leena Mansoor from FreshBooks was a fun introduction to HTML using Mozilla’s X-Ray goggles. It allows the girls to target different areas of a website and change the code right in the browser. It a great way to introduce HTML and understand what code is and how it works using your favourite websites.

After a busy morning the girls had lunch and played games downstairs in the big lunch room. Monday also happened to be Pi day so we wrote out the first 40 numbers of Pi on sheets of paper and had the girls arrange themselves in order, we then stuck all of the papers together in a chain and made it our classroom decoration for the rest of the week.

After lunch it was all about design. Erin Morris from FreshBooks lead the girls in a pixlr workshop and talked about designing logos.

Day Two

By day two the girls are no longer so shy. When their parents drop them off they run into camp eager to meet their friends and usually don’t even look back to say goodbye. Sorry Mom and Dad by the end of the week you may have to drag them home.

Day two is kicked off by announcing the hero or the morning, hero of the afternoon and mentor of the day from the previous day. These are individuals the girls nominate for extraordinary behaviour. It could be as simple as offering a smile that put someone at ease to helping someone with a difficult problem they were trying to solve. There was never any shortage of nominations. The winner are read out and we announce why they were nominated and by whom and then they can come up and pick a prize from a box of goodies.

We spent the early part of the morning taking head shots and team photos that the girls would be putting on their websites later in the week. And then we wasted no time in diving into another HTML workshop. This time using the Love Bomb builders to build our own emails that could be sent to parents. This workshop was lead by Dan Hulton from FreshBooks. The Love Bomb Builder allows you to use HTML to build an e-card in the form of a love bomb, first bump or mask. You can see the code and change it so that you personalize your own card.

After the Love Bomb workshop we had lunch, made some more warm fuzzies. After lunch it was time to write our own code. We dove into an Intro to HTML workshop lead by Sarah Ferguson from Verage Sale. Sarah explained what HTML is, what we use it for. She went through different HTML tags, how they work and what they are used for and then the girls spent time writing content and creating their own websites using Mozilla thimble.

Once again warm fuzzies and snack time brought the day to an end.

Day Three

By day three the girls are running into camp, tired parents chasing after them with their lunch bags. By now the girls know the routine, they make crafts and play games until we are ready to start class around 9:30 am.

Class kicks off with hero of the morning, hero of the afternoon, mentor of the day and any housekeeping items that need to be discussed. Wednesday morning followed with a workshop on Market Research and Infographic design using Canva lead by Alida Abzhanova and Thais Amaral from FreshBooks. The girls learned about the importance of Market Research and validating their idea, they came up with different questions to ask and conducted market survey on each other and their mentors. After gathering all of their research they arranged the data into infographics to be used later on their websites. After an intense morning of research the girls had some lunch and played games, eagerly awaiting our field trip to Nuvango.

We bundled up on a rainy afternoon and braved the roughly five minute walk to Nuvango. Nuvango or New Van Gogh is a concept art gallery and fashion and lifestyle brand. They collaborate with artists from around the world to design beautiful accessories and apparel. All goods are made in the factory in Toronto that we got to tour and Cale from Nuvango did a wonderful job of taking the girls around the factory and showing them the variety of technology and job roles used to create their products. The girls were divided into three groups with three stops. Stop one, the girls got to try on clothes from the newest collection and do a little photoshoot. Stop two, the factory tour explaining all the different technologies and job roles, stop three talking to a designer about how she designs different collections and clothing pieces, what patterns look good on what pieces and how these decisions are made, which we found out is a lot of trial and error. I’ve never seen the girls so engaged. At one point we had to stop questions because we were running out of time. The girls were busy taking photos and taking in all of the knowledge and information and as we were leaving I heard a group of girls muttering about how they would like to work there when they grow up.

We reluctantly walked back to camp and had some time for crafts and games until all of the parents began to arrive for pick up.

Day 4

Once all the girls arrived and class started we dove right into CSS, the second half of our website making workshop also lead by Sarah Ferguson. For those of you who don’t know CSS is the code that makes HTML looks pretty. Slightly more complicated than HTML but so much more fun. The girls learned all about a new syntax, curly brackets and colons and semicolons. Rules and selectors. How to change, background-color (spelled the american way), picture size, position of text and pictures, padding, margin…. The list goes on. The girls spent the morning transforming their boring HTML into beautiful polished websites.

After lunch Sabeer Zaman from FreshBooks lead a workshop on raising awareness and crowdfunding. The girls were given Google Nexus phones to record videos on and Sabeer walked them through how to use YouTube Video Creator to splice and edit their videos.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with a trip to Ubisoft, a game development company with offices around the world. A women in tech panel was set up where the girls had a chance to ask questions and learn about the different roles each woman worked in at Ubisoft.

Day Five – Final Presentations

The last day of camp is always a hectic one. The time seemed to fly by as the girls wrapped up any work they did not have the opportunity to finish during the week. All workshops and everything the girls learned during the week was pulled together into a demo presentation. Each group would present their cause and show off what they learned in front of parents and most of the FreshBooks staff.

Nerves were high and the afternoon was spent practicing and rehearsing final presentations and getting a tour of FreshBooks so that the girls could visit their mentors work stations and have a chance to see the different roles they lead in the company. 3pm arrived in no time and the girls went downstairs to show off what they had spent all week working so diligently on. A few things always surprise me about this day. Sometimes the girls who are the quietest in class are the loudest during presentations and it’s really rewarding to see these girls come out of their shells. It’s amazing to see how much knowledge has been absorbed and how much is accomplished in one short week.

At the end of camp the parents drag their reluctant daughters home, emails are exchanged and warm fuzzie are read reflecting on a fun and educational week.