My kids entered the world of Minecraft for the first time this weekend (in Creative mode) and spent hours figuring out the game and building things. The very first comment the Original Pigtail Pal, eight year old Amelia, made was “How do I make my player a girl? Is being a girl an option?”
I’m glad she questions her media, thinks critically about why the default character is (almost always) male and seeks ways to make changes. At the same time, I hate that my son doesn’t have to think twice about his gender being represented while my daughter approaches nearly all media with the question “And where are the girls?” at the ready and has to question why people like her are so often afterthoughts or altogether missing.
Girls and women are underrepresented in science and technology fields. As this article points out, “Building — or ‘modding’ as it is known — allows for any aspect of the game to be changed by coding (writing source code) in a programming language (Java). Not only do coding skills directly transfer to the kinds of 21st-century jobs important in our new economy, but coding skills build other skills and knowledge — critical thinking, logic and problem-solving skills — important in the STEM fields.”
Another important point –> Common Core doesn’t teach coding. Kids need to learn it on their own and according to data from the Center for Reading Research, girls receive the same messages about coding as they do about math and science — that it is a “boy” subject. Coding and STEM are for everyone and we need to figure out how to get AND retain more girls in STEM clubs and careers. If that belief holds true for girls it has the potential to directly impact them long term when it comes to career choice and earning potential. No matter what careers our daughters ultimately enter, knowing a digital language like Java or Ruby will matter.
Luckily, there are ways to change the skin so Amelia’s “Steve” can now become “Amelia the Scientist” after school today. You can’t be what you can’t see. And when my kids play together, I want Ben to see his sister as a scientist, not another Steve. Simple changes like this can have a big impact on how kids grow up and what interests they pursue.