If you were a teen in grades 6-12, wouldn't you want to Choose Your Own Adventure? Twenty teens at the Redmond Library did just that, learning computer coding, writing their own stories and turning them into adventure video games of their choice.
The innovative program, which made its debut in 2014, was designed by Redmond Teen Services Librarian Stephanie Zero in partnership with local web site developer, teacher and consultant Cheri Allen, and author Karen Finneyfrock. The four-week workshop, which included a fiction-writing class with Finneyfrock and video game classes with Allen, was limited to 20 students and had a waiting list of 25.
The idea for the program took hold in Zero's mind after she read a University of Washington alumni newsletter about local efforts to create more opportunities for girls to learn computer programming and consider pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
"I related to the fact that I was at first intimidated by coding and computer programming too," said Zero, who earned her graduate degree from the UW Information School. "A lot of girls don't even try it because they think it's too hard, but it isn't. The question was, how do you get them to even consider it?"
The answer, Zero figured, was make it fun. She also figured that her job is "to see a need in the community and try to meet it, by making connections and finding experts." She knew Allen, whose many clients included Girl Develop It, an organization that teaches girls coding and web site development.
"The wheels started turning," Zero said. "Cheri was committed to helping girls, and knew just how to pull the project together to create a story and video game."
What adventures did the students choose? The class repertoire included "Banana Monkeys in Space" and "Zombie Vampires."
There is no doubt, Zero said, the program had an impact on kids previously intimidated by coding. The teens wrote all their own stories, deciding all the options of the video games.
"They were running around in class, so excited, saying, 'Play my game,' 'Check out my game,' "Zero said. "They were so enthused; they even attended class on what could have been a holiday - 4th of July."