Sheri Hill is on a mission to inspire girls to code, one mom at a time.
Once a month she meets with a group of moms, and their kids, in the community room of Hamilton's Main Street West Fortinos and teaches basic computer coding. The group — moms who code (so girls will code) — was born out of the idea that there are too few girls in computer sciences.
Hill teaches math and computers at Craig Kielburger Secondary School in Milton and said she would often find only about two girls in a computer class of about 25.
"I wanted to find a way to inspire moms first," she said, adding that moms will inspire their kids.
The group began about six months ago with only a few moms out of Hill's home. It's now grown to upwards of 30 people a month and now includes their kids.
"I like to refer to it as a superpower," Hill said about computer coding.
The work is like a puzzle or game that can be addictive, she added.
When the group gathered this Sunday they were working with Scratch — a free programming language where you can create interactive stories, games, and animations. The coding language uses blocks that fit together to form specific tasks, layered with images and sound. In one game they program a cat to chase after stars, while avoiding three floating octopuses.
At one table sits three generations of one family, grandma (Laurie Hartley), mom (Michelle Baker) and six-year-old Claire Baker who excitedly shows off her games.
"I really like coding," she says.
Michelle began taking the classes months ago and recently asked her mom and daughter to join. She said she loves the lessons that come with coding, because the only way to get it right is by trial and error.
"We don't teach kids to fail," she said, explaining that coding typically never works the first time and there is a lot to be learned when you have to keep trying.
"It's so satisfying when it does work."
Emma Burdon is a 16-year-old Grade 10 student at Craig Kielburger, who brought her mom with her for the first time so she can get an understanding of coding.
Burdon said she first learned about coding briefly in math class and found that far from being intimidating, it was fun.
Now she's one of only 36 girls selected to attend a University of Waterloo girls coding camp for a week in May.
Moms who code (so girls will code) is open to new members and events are organized through a Facebook group of the same name.