In an illustration of how arts and science can be mutually supportive, NextCity had a piece about an effort to train art teachers to teach girls to code. Code/Art was started by MIT grad Amy Renshaw in an attempt to make coding more interesting and accessible to girls.
Art as a way to pique girls’ curiosity makes sense to Renshaw—art skews female when it’s an elective, and there’s more flexibility in the curriculum. Research backs her up: Girls’ interest in computer science increases when the classroom environment reflects art and nature rather than stereotypical geeky decor, like Star Trek posters. Research also shows girls’ involvement with computer science should start before eighth grade, at which point cultural stereotypes are already taking root.
To create a comfortable learning atmosphere, facilitators are open about their own struggles and encourage the teachers to tap into each other’s knowledge and experience. They are assisted by college-age interns, who are then available to help in the classroom
Code/Art started out in Miami-Dade schools in 2019. As you might imagine, the pandemic put a damper on roll out to other cities as well as the level of participation among teachers in Miami. That said, one of the teachers interviewed, Nancy Mastronardi, credited involvement in the Code/Art curriculum with keeping her energized and helping her avoid the burn out many of her colleagues felt. Some of her students started meeting on Zoom independently of her class to continue working on their ideas.
Mastronardi also started an after school Code/Art club, as have other schools in the Miami-Dade school system. While club participation in the school system dropped during the pandemic, in a survey of club participants, “…52% said they plan to major or minor in computer science in college and 87% said their club motivated them to continue coding in the future.”