Sadie Cutts, like most kids in Canada her age, has played a lot of video games. A Grade 8 student at École Charleswood School, she has learned over the past year and a half that a passion for gaming can be honed and channeled into valuable skills – skills that can lead to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The opportunity to discover her own passion was provided by an extracurricular program known as Girls Who Game (GWG).
Sponsored by Dell Technologies, GWG is intended to support diversity and equity in STEM-related fields by providing a personalized, safe and supportive environment for girls to develop skills in communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity – all using Minecraft as a learning tool.
Sadie is quick to point out that she “owes everything” to her Grade 7 teacher, Jeff Hunter, and speaks of the GWG opportunity with considerable gratitude.
Peggy Hobson, principal at École Charleswood School, set up Manitoba’s first and only local GWG club at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. Dell provided the school with laptop computers, and club members (including Sadie) were selected by teachers based on their interests and aptitudes.
Hobson says the true educational value of the program lies in the things the girls are not even aware they are learning.
They are absorbing lessons about who they are and what they can do,” she says. “The program allows us to mess up the [school] subjects a little bit. We want students to engage more with the process than the content.”
Sadie and the others have also had the chance to interact with some of Dell’s top engineers who are also women.
“Having this experience shows that young girls can be introduced to STEM and find a passion for it,” Sadie says. “If I see that you are into something similar, then I start to think that maybe I could do this, or even teach it.”
Calvin Yong, one of GWG’s two coaches, expresses amazement at the impact of the program on Sadie and the others. “Students know more than the coaches now,” he says, only half-jokingly.
A side perk of GWG membership was the entry of the Charleswood Celtics in GWG’s first-ever Esports event, which took place in January. Hobson said it was an “added bonus” to be able to hold an event at the school on a Saturday during the pandemic since other sports are on hold. The Esports tournament could be held safely with appropriate social distancing for team members while the event was broadcast in the graphics lab on a 75-inch screen. Each team was tasked with building a safe, sustainably built, flying “school bus of the future”! Sadie says it was “lots of fun” and that the Celtics were given a special award of recognition for collaboration and teamwork. “We’re very proud of them,” says Hobson.
The GWG end-of-term celebration ceremony was held online and included groups from all across North America. Sadie was thrilled to be invited to be a co-host with her friend April.
In the end, the event was loads of fun, even if a little nerve-wracking. “I don’t think I really knew how many people were watching,” she said, “I had no idea.” Co-hosts were given a script to follow but were allowed to add their own commentary. Sadie enjoyed responding to each speaker and passing the mic along to the next.
On behalf of our board of trustees and senior leadership, we would like to congratulate Sadie and the entire École Charleswood School GWG team.