Magical Coding Carnival Engages Future Computer Scientists

On Wednesday, September 25, Foxcroft hosted a group of middle school girls on campus for a “Coding Carnival” — an evening of fun activities meant to get girls engaged and excited about computer science — without actually sitting in front of a computer! Hosting the Coding Carnival presented a great opportunity for Foxcroft’s AP Computer Science (APCS) students to share their knowledge and excitement with younger girls. The event also furthered the mission of Foxcroft’s STEM Department to develop students’ problem-solving skills and to boost their confidence in using and developing a wide range of technologies.
As one of only six schools in Virginia and 490 worldwide to receive the College Board’s AP Computer Science Principles Female Diversity Award, Foxcroft is committed to raising awareness and engagement in the exciting field of computer science for young women in our community. Foxcroft’s student volunteers had a great time getting to know the middle schoolers and leading them through the various events. Betsy A. ’21, Emily Z. ’21, and Erica J. ’22 formed the planning committee to help organize the event, and STEM teacher Dan Hales worked with the volunteers and APCS students to put together the activities to share with the middle schoolers.

The “carnival” began with some group bonding time over pizza as the middle schoolers arrived and settled in. Foxcroft students led team-building games to help the girls feel welcome and learn more about one another. The event then moved into the Audrey Bruce Currier Library, where Foxcroft girls staffed the carnival events and girls rotated through to complete each station in order to earn raffle tickets. Raffle prizes included a Sphero robot, a robotic dog, a Kano computer coding kit, and several coding-related board games.

One of the most popular stations was the binary code magic trick, led by Emily Z. ’21 and Maya Y. ’20 — a magician never reveals her secrets, but you can ask any APCS student to show you the trick! Other activities included binary bracelet making, where students spelled out their names in binary code; robot cups, where students had to give step-by-step instructions for making a tower out of plastic cups in symbols clear enough to be understood and followed by a “robot” (played convincingly by Leslie W. ’20, Adair S. ’22, and Mimi S. ’20); and color decryption, where students created pixelated drawings to mimic the images seen on a computer screen.

The idea for the carnival and many of the activities came from the College Board’s Computer Science Education Week initiative, an effort to promote engagement in computer science. Foxcroft is no stranger to this event, traditionally celebrating it with Hour of Code in Advisory groups in order to expose all of Foxcroft’s students to the ins and outs of computer programming. The School has recently broadened its computer science offerings to include two levels of Advanced Placement Computer Science: AP Computer Science A, a coding course that utilizes the programming language Java, and AP Computer Science Principles, designed as a coding language-independent opportunity for students to explore how coding can be used to solve real-world problems. With a new course called STEAM Technology, a bridge between art and STEM, as well as Wintermission course offerings in various programming languages, we hope girls at any level can learn and enjoy computer programming.
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An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.