When it’s lunchtime at Highland City Elementary, the girls in the cafeteria aren’t just there for chocolate milk. They’re learning valuable tech skills as part of Girls Who Code, an initiative to build the “world’s largest pipeline of future female engineers.” The effort at Highland City is being guided by teacher Cynthia Kuhlman, who has assembled an army of more than 30 girls in grades 3-5. Working on laptop computers, they take part in Girls Who Code programs as an extracurricular club during lunch, since some students do not have the option of staying after school. “The response has been awesome,” Kuhlman says. “The students seem happy and engaged, and another teacher recently sent me a note that said, ‘My girls love going to your class.’” Kuhlman is working to expand the club’s activities, and she has help. A $15,000 grant from the George W. Jenkins Fund within the GiveWell Community Foundation is being used to acquire more laptops for Highland City’s cafeteria coders. Kuhlman also hopes to invite female professionals from STEM fields to speak with her students about the real-world applications of the skills they’re learning. Although her “real” job is teaching gifted students, Kuhlman says she has a “passion for all students to have access to computer science and technology innovations.” “Some of these traditionally lower-performing students are shocked and quite pleased at their success in these activities,” she says. “It’s incredibly rewarding to facilitate that kind of growth.”
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