Most coding courses don’t end with a technology-driven dance performance, but that’s exactly how some girls in New York City have been learning engineering, computer science and technology topics.
STEM From Dance wants to increase the number of Black and Latina girls in STEM professions by … [+]
STEM From Dance / Girls Rise Up
They’re taking part in workshops run by STEM From Dance, a non-profit that hopes to encourage more Black and Latina girls to choose a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Enigeering and Math). This group currently represent only 4% of STEM graduates in the USA, which means that when they do choose to follow a science or technology degree, they’ll often feel out of place. That’s why STEM From Dance wants to make sure that their first tech and coding course is one they’re experiencing together – and one that just happens to involve a lot of dancing!
“It’s definitely the dancing that brings them in”, says STEM From Dance operations manager Rocío Cuevas.
She explains how the organisation runs workshops in collaborations with schools as well as through a summer program. Throughout the year they collaborate with schools for a semester or longer to run in-school or after-school programs. During that period they visit the school once or twice a week to run a combined coding and dance class with the girls who participate. Half of the class gets a STEM lesson while the other half is working on their dance choreography.
The STEM and dance components are tightly linked. For example, the girls can decide that they want to incorporate a light show in their choreography and write the program to control the light colors and patterns. Or they might want to design wearable technology for their costumes. This connection to the dance performance is the spark that ignites their excitement for the technical aspect of the program.
“Once they have that vision in their head of ‘okay, this is what we want the dance to look like’, it gets them excited about finishing their STEM projects,” says Cuevas.
STEM From Dance works with a select group of schools throughout the year, but they also run the summer program Girls Rise Up. The summer workshops are open to all girls aged 12-18 in NYC, from any school, and applications for the summer 2020 program have just opened.
Girls Rise Up is an annual summer program for girls aged 12-18 in New York City. The program … [+]
STEM From Dance / Girls Rise Up
But why dance? Why not just teach girls to code without dancing?
“The reason we use dance,” explains Cuevas, “is because researchers found that dance helps you with your problem-solving skills and also increases their confidence.”
Dance as a basis for problem-solving is a growing field within psychology research. It underlies some of the theories behind dancing as therapy for people with Parkinson’s Disease, for example, but it has also been used to encourage creative thinking among school children.
And it seems to work for STEM From Dance. Their programs’ participants reported feeling more confident about STEM courses, and some could even see themselves considering a career in the field.
If STEM From Dance achieves its mission, we’ll hopefully see more Black or Latina women among future STEM professionals – and some of them might be dancers!
The application deadline for Girls Rise Up is Sunday, April 5th. STEM From Dance are offering 25% off the full cost of the program to students that apply by March 10th, and they have scholarships available to families in need.