Girls discover science, tech during monthly library program

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — It looks like a familiar scene. Children sit down opposite computer screens and tune out the world.

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But they weren't using social media or watching YouTube.

They were coding.

Once a month, young girls meet at the Bob Kirby Branch of the Warren County Public Library to participate in Girls of Steel, a program designed to introduce girls ages 8-13 to science, technology, engineering, art and math, or STEAM.

These girls have created slime, bath bombs and tie-dyed clothes, and set stuff on fire — all the while learning about the states of matter, chemical reactions and modern technology.

On Monday, a group of eight girls learned to code or advanced their existing coding skill sets. They programmed commands to control an avatar, which hopped across the scene to accomplish a task.

A couple of them giggled as they coded goofy noises for one of their avatar's movements. It's how people design video games.

"Pretty much all coding is, is you put different symbols in to create a program that controls an avatar," ShaeQuinna Sydnor, who took over the program about two years ago, explained to one of the new girls.

There are regulars most months along with the occasional new girls. There were about five girls per month when Sydnor started, and now they average about a dozen girls.

"Some girls have been coming since the very beginning," Sydnor said.

Andrea Curry of Bowling Green accompanied her daughter, Emma Kate, to her first Girls of Steel gathering Monday.

Since her daughter is home-schooled, Curry encourages her to participate in social activities in the community. She recently gave her daughter an issue of SOKY Happenings and told her to generate a list of things to do — and Emma Kate selected the STEAM program.

"She loves science," Curry said. "She's a science junkie."

STEAM education fosters the use of imagination, creativity and skill sets that might benefit a child's hobbies or professions down the road. But schools seem to be reducing science and art curriculums, according to Sydnor, who also works as a teacher's assistant at T.C. Cherry Elementary School in Bowling Green.

"Kids don't get this kind of engagement at their schools," Sydnor said. "STEAM creates critical thinking."

On Monday, Sydnor assisted girls when they needed help, but otherwise let the girls learn independently.

Next month, the topic will be engineering. Sydnor is considering having the girls build a type of structure, like a bridge or tower, to hold a lot of weight.

Warren County Public Library programs are free, open to the public, and "the capacity is as many as we can get," Sydnor said.

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Information from: Daily News, http://www.bgdailynews.com