Who do you think embodies the spirit of “strong, smart, and bold?” That was the question staff in Girls Inc.’s BUILD IT program asked a group of 6th and 7th graders this summer. “You have that person (or group of people, or type of animal) in your head? Good! Now go make a website about them.”
And with that, 15 girls were off and running. BUILD IT is a key component of the Girls Inc. of Alameda County middle school program, and teaches girls to be the architects – not just the consumers – of digital art and technology. During the summer, the girls learn to build webpages and create sites about topics that interest them.
Careers in the digital economy require creative thinking along with technical know-how, and BUILD IT develops skills in both arenas. Girls are challenged to generate ideas, create stories, and design a layout. Once they have their topics fleshed out, girls learn the basics of simple web page design, coding terminology, how to work with photos and images, and how to create text and hyperlinks.
Just as importantly, the girls practice leadership and socio-emotional skills throughout the program. By working in pairs, girls share ideas and practice collaboration. When it comes to building web pages, they learn the power of teamwork by dividing up tasks and relying on each other. At the end of the program, the teams practiced their presentation skills by demonstrating their sites to the class and answering questions.
Who the girls chose to write about varied from group to group. One team chose Michelle Obama, and another chose wolves. When asked why they chose wolves, the girls said, “wolves are strong, smart, and bold because they survive in the wild and hunt as a pack. We think that’s cool.”
And as a final touch to their sites, each team created a bio page on themselves. Each girl presented how she – and her partner – were strong, smart, and bold. “It was hard,” one 7th grader said. “But we had fun, too!”