Art Teachers Are Teaching Girls to Code

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Nancy Mastronardi does all kinds of art with her students at Joella C. Good elementary school in Miami. Some weeks it’s drawing and painting, other weeks it’s weaving and pottery. At the Title 1 school, creativity is on display everywhere you look—from the sunshine-yellow tile mosaic flanking the school’s entrance to the painted superhero vegetables by the garden.

But when the pandemic hit and learning went remote, and then hybrid, Mastronardi—who’s been teaching for 29 years—had to adapt. She traded her classroom for an art cart that went room-to-room, and began Zooming online half the time. But at home, her students didn’t have supplies like clay or oil pastels.

“A lot of the kids weren’t putting in the kind of work that I’m capable of getting out of them when I’m in class. And I couldn’t give them much variety because I relied on those supplies to provide a rich experience,” she says. “I knew I had to give them something else.”

Then, Mastronardi was introduced to a summer virtual training with the Miami nonprofit Code/Art. Founded by MIT grad Amy Renshaw in 2016, the goal is to delight and inspire girls, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, with the “creative possibilities of computer programming.” They do this by training art teachers with lessons that combine art and coding. There are also weekly Code/Her clubs for elementary and middle school girls, Future Female Tech Leaders program for high schoolers, and Code/Art Fest, an annual community-focused conference that celebrates the girls’ achievements.

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