The Tynker Belles are leaders when it comes to teaching computer code to others. It’s not something they do professionally — they’re too young for that.
The Tynker Belles are girls in a Whitesburg Elementary Club who learn to code, and then teach those skills to homeschool students at the Whitesburg Public Library.
“This is the second year for the club and I have been here since the beginning,” said Whitesburg Elementary teacher Beverly Dillard. “I decided to do this because I knew it was something we had to have at the school.”
Dillard had to teach herself how to code before putting the club together so that she could help the young girls while they learned. Now the students are “pros” and are able to tackle any project Dillard throws at them.
“They are an amazing group of students,” Dillard said. “Working with computers is second nature to them and they are not afraid to try it. I pull them once a week during the school’s extra learning time, and they spend that time with me to improve and practice.”
Dillard said that nowadays many skills and learning opportunities are web-based.
“Teaching them at a young age is important,” Dillard said. “This could be a career in their future and with 21st century skills, a large percentage of jobs that will be available to them most likely have not been invented yet. But, in the future they will have to learn computer skills for things such as making their own website.”
Dillard said that the club is fighting the stereotype that computer coding is a “guy thing” and that the young girls can learn how to code too and have fun with it.
“It has been good to see the students work with homeschoolers because when a students can teach another, then they know it,” said Dillard. “As the students teach, they can understand what all they know and they can also see where they need to improve.”
So far the Tynker Belles have made animations and even Christmas cards using code.
“One of the big things we do in this club is debug,” Dillard said. “Many times the girls will get a program and it does not do what they want, so they have to learn how to fix it. They learn commands, solve problems and also learn to work together.”
Fourth-grader Jayla Donaldson gave an example of how she was facing a problem in her coding program and learned to fix it.
“We get to create our own animation with codes,” Jayla said. “It was very hard to learn at first but now I am good at it. We code every Monday to practice. The hardest thing for me in coding is positioning items for animations but it is fun because we can be creative and make our own stories.”
Debugging programs, Jayla said, is like solving a puzzle, challenging but fun when finished.
“I did this last year and I think I will stay and do this next year,” she said. “I really like it and it is fun for me.”
Whitesburg Library Branch Manager Ruth Fuller said it is nice to share the library with the community.
“This is not just a place to read and imagine but also a place for education,” she said. “This club is an exciting concept. Our goals of the library is life long learning for all ages.”
Dillard said she is proud of the progress the Tynker Belles have made and she hopes she can inspire the students to continue to work with computers and grow their passion for learning.