UCS partners with Girls Who Code to promote interest in Computer Science
UCS partners with Girls Who Code to promote interest in Computer Science
Posted on 01/04/2018
Girl working on a computer

In a quiet morning before school in the Dresden Elementary media center, a group of students were meeting to change the future of computer science.

The students were taking part in the first meeting of the school’s new Girls Who Code club – one of nearly 20 clubs introduced throughout the district this year.

The clubs, offered in partnership with the non-profit Girls Who Code organization, address the national gender gap in computer science by promoting technology and coding for students exploring future careers.

“Utica Community Schools remains committed to ensuring all of our students are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow,” Superintendent Dr. Christine Johns said. “The clubs extend the work of our teachers to create excitement for computer science and how professionals are using technology to change the future.”  

Nationally, it is estimated there are nearly 500,000 high paying computer science jobs available and only 42,000 entering the workforce.

Of those computer science college graduates, only one of five are females, according to Girls Who Code. Currently, only 24 percent of the computer science workforce are women with projections that will fall to 22 percent by 2025.

For students at Dresden Elementary, their future began at a before school meeting where they began their year-long exploration of computer science.  

The students began the morning talking about coding, how computer science helps solve problems and the types of careers in computer programming.

Media specialist Cheryl Boes also shared the story of a female computer scientist in Kenya who has used technology to mobilize resources necessary in the event of a natural disaster.

The club – one of nearly 20 clubs at elementary and secondary schools – will provide girls with career options and “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said sixth grader Madison Ratcliff.

The Girls Who Code Club will meet weekly throughout the school year.

Normally a program for secondary students, the district is able to offer the clubs to elementary students as a result of its continued work to promote coding lessons through its media centers.  The clubs will allow students to explore computer science at a time research indicates the gender gap begins to appear.

It was a message that was not lost on the students in the Dresden Girls Who Code club.

“This club helps show girls that we can do anything we want to do,” said sixth grader Mackenzie Arrington.

The Girls Who Code clubs add to recent UCS computer science initiatives:

  • Expanded Computer Science Opportunities through Code.org Partnership           
    • UCS was the first Michigan school district to partner with Code.org to integrate coding lessons in elementary media programs and expand programs for secondary students. This school year, the district introduced a course at three junior high schools that allows students to explore introductory concepts of coding and computer science called Computer Science Discoveries. Over the past year, the national non-profit organization has been working with elementary media center teachers to integrate coding lessons into UCS curriculum. Elementary lessons begin as early as kindergarten and include lessons such as algorithms, digital footprints, vocabulary strategies and problem solving. Secondary teachers have been trained on integrating coding concepts into Algebra 1 courses taken by every UCS student. The district has also expanded an Advanced Placement Computer Science Course to include both Eisenhower and Utica high school students.


  • 360° Filmmakers Challenge with Digital Promise
    • Utica Community Schools is among only five communities taking part in a grant-funded partnership with Digital Promise that uses virtual reality and 360° video to create important community messages. Through the partnership, UCS received 360° video production equipment and ongoing support from professional filmmaker mentors. UCS is an active partner with the congressionally authorized, bipartisan Digital Promise initiative, serving as a charter member of the organization’s League of Innovative Schools. The League is a group of nearly 100 educational leaders from across the country supporting the effective use of technology in classrooms.
  • Center of Excellence for Virtual Reality
    • UCS was named the Midwest’s only Center of Excellence for its innovation and leadership in providing students with lifelike learning experiences through the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in classrooms by zSpace, Inc., a Silicon Valley education company.

      The district has virtual reality technology in four elementary schools, sharing with school leaders nationwide its first-hand experiences and best practices for incorporating AR/VR activities into teaching and learning.  The district’s focus is to prepare students for the careers of tomorrow where virtual engineering and 3D environments will be a part of their everyday lives. 

  • Hour of Code
    • Media Centers throughout the district will take part in the International Hour of Code - a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. The Hour of Code is a one-hour set of computer science activities designed to demystify code and show that anyone can learn the basics.