Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Behind The Scenes At Karlie Kloss's New Coding Camp For Girls

Two years ago, model Karlie Kloss enrolled in Flatiron School's two-week pre-college coding course and caught the programming bug. She started taking regular private coding classes with Flatiron dean and cofounder Avi Flombaum (who she already knew socially) and enjoyed the experience so much that she decided to underwrite 21 Kode with Karlie scholarships so other young women could take the same two-week pre-college coding course at Flatiron that had kicked off her own programming education.

This summer, Kloss is taking it up a notch by launching her own Kode with Klossy coding camps for young women aged 13-18 in Los Angeles, New York, and her hometown of St. Louis, using Flatiron's curriculum and learning platform. Unlike last summer's Kode with Karlie program, this year's 80 scholarship recipients will participate in their own program, separate from other Flatiron School students. By the end of the camp, which is being taught by independent instructors, students will have learned the fundamentals of Ruby on Rails and built their own web app. Kloss is not underwriting this latest round of scholarships herself but instead, in partnership with Flatiron School and CSNYC, has pulled together a number of partner brands as fiscal sponsors for the program.

"I have big goals of continuing to build the community of these young women, to not only stay in touch and support and encourage and challenge each other, but also learn from one another," Kloss says, adding that she's going to try to take off as much time as possible from modeling to attend the camps in person "because selfishly, I really am so inspired and so excited by my experiences with the girls [last summer], watching them have these aha moments and this empowerment that comes from learning something new and hard."

The camp isn't confined to classroom walls. Since space in the program is limited, the Kode with Klossy team hopes to virtually teach as many unaccepted applicants as possible this summer via live-streaming video and Flatiron's online platform (virtual students won't have to pay for the program).

So why is Flatiron the right partner for a coding camp aimed at girls? "I think the first thing we do really well [at Flatiron] and try to focus on is creating a supportive and engaging environment that isn't necessarily about great scores or how amazing you are as a programmer, but really a place to be curious, to feel inspired, to be engaged," says Flombaum.

Designing that kind of encouraging environment incorporates a number of different elements and approaches, he says, "from having music playing when you come in the class to showing and telling stories about other programmers and bringing in guest speakers, having [students] always work in groups and constantly changing those groups up so they're meeting each other and forging connections between them and not developing cliques, having really amazing and passionate teachers that want to see the students succeed emotionally and psychologically, having a bright, colorful classroom with desks arranged in circles so they can all sit next to each other and talk to each other."

Flombaum also points out that Flatiron's class enrollment has been equally split between male and female students for over three years. The tech industry itself, of course, struggles with a gender imbalance. "We're very big believers that a diversity of opinion through background creates the most engaging place for people to learn," he says. "The more perspectives there are, the more backgrounds people come from, the more life experiences that are different creates a really amazing environment for people to grow together in ways they would never be able to grow if they were surrounded by people just like them."

For Kloss, who interviewed this summer's Kode with Klossy camp instructors herself, the teaching environment is crucial. "Like anything you're learning, when you have a teacher that is excited and passionate about it, that is contagious and it makes it so much more fun for the students to learn, to continue to push forward and not to get stuck," Kloss says.

"Coding is such a collaborative thing anyway, especially the way that learning in these code camps is done. When you can't figure out how to scrape from a certain API or something is wrong with your code and you keep hitting a wall, you either ask the person next to you or you Google the answer. It's so funny, because that is so counter to most other things that you're learning," she laughs. "You're usually not allowed to Google the answer, but in coding it's almost encouraged."


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