STEAM Snack: Unplugged Coding – Valentine’s Day

Hello! Welcome back to our monthly post that will focus on STEAM activities and snacks you can do at home with your family or with your troops. 

February is here! With this new month comes Valentine’s Day – a day filled with treats, sweet messages, and often a lot of sugar. This unplugged coding activity will maximize the nice messages, while minimizing screen time (and cutting back on eating too many sweets!) Girls will be making binary bracelets with a Valentine’s twist! There are so many more STEAM projects out there and if you have a favorite or a new topic you’d like to see please let us know in the comments. 

Why unplugged coding?  

Basic coding activities are a great way to have fun without screens or computers. Introducing your girls to the binary alphabet can help them gain a better understanding of the technology, apps, and games they use every day. If they already understand the basics of coding, this is a great refresher and a fun way to showcase their existing knowledge. 

What is binary code? 

Binary code is the code used in digital computers that is based on the binary number system in which there are only two states – off and on. Off and on are symbolized by 0 and 1. A binary code signal is a series of electrical pulses that represent numbers, characters, and operations to be performed. In binary code, each number or letter is represented by a set of four binary digits, also called bits.  

What if I’m not an expert? 

We are not all coding or computer specialists, and it is okay to feel like we don’t know enough to lead the girls in computer science activities. But remember, you do! Focus on the basics of binary code and let the girls lead their projects and see where it goes. Each girl will have a different design/set of code. If you are feeling you want more expert knowledge reach out to your troop parents, friends, relatives or other GSHPA troop leaders on the GSHPA Facebook page to see if there is a computer science professional you can invite to come talk to your girls.   

How do I get started? 

Take some time to look over the basics of binary coding and computer science. Take a look at this resource that helps explain the Binary Alphabet.  Review the Binary Bracelets lesson from code.org for more information. 

Now’s the time to gather supplies for you to do the activity – it’s always easier to guide girls through the process when you have done it yourself. Once you have everything, read through the directions in “The Activity” section below. 

  • Pink, white, and red craft pipe cleaners  
  • Pink, white, and red pony beads 
  • Paper and pencil 
  • Print out of the Binary Bracelet Worksheet from code.org  
  • Scissors  
  • Tape  

The Badges 

This activity is a great way to introduce coding to your girls or troop. You can change the level of difficulty by having girls code their initials or an entire word/sentence. Complete this activity just for fun, adapt it to fit other holidays, or add this activity into your meetings for any of the following badges: 

  • Daisy Coding for Good 1: Coding Basics 
  • Brownie Coding for Good 1: Basics 
  • Brownie Robotics 1: Programming Robots 
  • Junior Coding for Good 1: Coding Basics 
  • Junior Robotics 1: Programming Robots 

The Activity  

Need enough materials for each girl participating: pink/white/red craft pipe cleaners (ribbon or yarn will work), pink/white/red pony beads (need a lot since each letter girls’ will be coding takes 8 beads), paper, pencil, print out the Binary Bracelet Worksheet for each girl, scissors, and tape.  

Introduction to the girls 

  • Today’s activity is all about coding – but without technology or computers! Where is coding used? 
    • Computers, phones, robotics, technology, etc.  
    • What is coding? (Give girls time to think and answer). 
      • Coding is defined as “A specific language or series of commands that tells a computer what to do.” 
  • For this activity, we will be learning/review Binary Code. 
    • Binary is a way of representing information using only two options. 
  • Has anyone seen the inside of a computer? 
    • What’s in there? (Share a photo of the inside of a computer) 
  • Wires carry information through the machine in the form of electricity. 
    • The two options that a computer uses with respect to this electrical information are “off” and “on.” 
    • When computers represent information using only two options, it’s called “Binary.” 
    • That theme of two options doesn’t stop when the information gets to its destination. 
  • Computers also store or save information using Binary. 
  • How can we convert/translate/change the things we store in a computer into binary? 
    • Let’s use letters!  

Step 1: Binary Decoder Key/Paper Bracelets 

This first activity is a great introduction to binary and gets the girls comfortable before creating their Valentine’s hearts. Make sure girls have paper, pencil, and a copy of the Binary Bracelet Worksheet. Explain the following: 

  • Have girls take out the Binary Decoder Key. This is how a computer might represent capital letters. 
    • Look at the letter “A” 
    • It’s represented by black and white squares 
  • Look at each letter and explain to girls that the letters can be written in a code using the black and white squares 
  • For Brownies and Juniors (before creating bracelet) 
    • If it was written in a computer, the black squares would be zero’s and the white squares would be one’s 
      • 0100 0001 
    • Use your blank piece of paper and pencil and write the first letter of your first name, and the first letter of your last name 
      • If your name starts with “A”, find “A” on the Binary Decoder Key 
        • Example: A = 0100 0001 
  • Once the girls understand, have them complete the following: 
    • Find the first letter of your first name. 
    • Fill in the squares of the bracelet to match the pattern of the squares next to the letter that you found. 
    • Cut the bracelet our and tape it around your wrist to wear! 

Step 2: Valentine’s Binary Hearts 

Once the girls feel comfortable and understand the basics of binary, they are ready to create their Valentine’s hearts! Make sure they have the Alphabet in Binary Code, paper, pencil, beads, and pipe cleaners. More information on this activity can be found here

Have girls pick what they want to code for their hearts. Keep them simple, remember each letter takes 8 beads. Once they pick their word/letters, have them write them on a piece of paper using the Binary Decoder Key. Girls can make multiple hearts for words or attach more pipe cleaners for longer words. Tell them to pick TWO colors for their beads – REMEMBER one color represents the zeros and one color represents the ones. Choose another bead color as a separator between the letters.  

  • LOVE 
  • HI 
  • BFF 
  • MOM 
  • DAD 
  • CUTE 
  • NICE 
  • ROSE 

Example: LOVE, zeros are pink and ones are white, purple bead to put between each new letter. 

  • L = 0100 1100 (add purple bead to separate) 
  • O = 0100 1111 
  • V = 0101 0110 
  • E = 0100 0101 

Bonus: to extend the activity, have girls write simple messages in binary and trade with someone to see if they can decode the message! 

Congratulations, you did it! You deserve a snack – let’s make Valentine’s Fruit Kebabs!  

Valentine Fruit Wands

Materials: 

  • Watermelon 
  • Strawberries  
  • Any fruit that you like! 
  • Small heart cookie cutter 
  • Knife for cutting fruit 
  • Wood/metal skewers or even straws 

Cut your watermelon into ½ to 1 inch slices, then use the small heart cookie cutter to cut watermelon into smaller heart pieces. Use a knife to remove the stems off the strawberries (can get creative and cut the stem off and make it look like a heart). If you want to add raspberries, blackberries, or even grapes go for it! For extra sweetness, add some whipped cream topping or melted chocolate to dip your fruit in! 


Post by Liz Bleacher