Mentor Story: Unity Girls Who Code


We are delighted to share the story of a new team, Unity Girls Who Code, from Morristown, NJ! Unity Girls Who Code  was started by a mother and daughter. This story came our way through their mentors.

Members of the ‘Unity Girls Who Code’ team at Unity Charter School in Morristown, NJ took their first Technovation field trip on a recent Saturday, to Primrose, one of many properties under the preservation auspices of Harding Land Trust in New Jersey. Given that Unity Charter School embodies sustainability at the core of its values and education, the girls chose to explore  the “environment” theme this season. Diala and Jeff, co-mentors to Unity Girls Who Code, are leading the girls through the 20-week curriculum, and the girls are currently at the Ideation module.
Upon arrival at Barrett field, the girls present on this trip — Kayla, Bella and Ella — took a long walking path following tree markers as their guiding light until they reached a vast and open landing where board of trustee members of  the not-for-profit Harding Land Trust organization had all come together to volunteer their time towards preservation of the land by laying soil, mulch and lining the pathways. The girls participated with delight as they picked up logs and carefully placed them along the pathways. With some logs being quite heavy, teamwork went into full force where the three girls each carried one side of the log together until they dropped it on the trail in unison. There were also ribbons wrapped around the bark of many trees; these preceded the latter placed orange markers so the girls enjoyed removing these temporary markers as they took stock of the paths they had helped restore.

It was a great experience for this Unity Technovation team to be out in nature, enjoying the rewards of contributing to the preservation of the treasured Primrose landscape. As the girls soon discovered, the property is quite beautiful and a hidden gem! The girls spent two hours immersed in the act of sustainable volunteerism, and then received two presentations: one by Gerry Scully, Board of Trustees Vice President of Stewardship and one by Jordan Leff, Operations Director. Each one provided an overview on the state of the Harding Land Trust and what issues and challenges lie ahead.

The first presentation, given by Gerry was done while he was plowing the newly laid soil and the girls were squatting on the wood chips while filling out their community documenting worksheets. The second presentation, delivered by Jordan was held at the end of the path where all the volunteers huddled by the trunk of a pick-up truck where donuts, drinks, sandwiches and chips served as a reward for their hard work. This intimate gathering culminated in a private walking tour led by Jordan to an open space of about 30 acres where a beautiful 170 year old oak tree lay arching over a magnificent lush green landscape.

Here are some of the issues the team uncovered:

  • Butterflies and bees — key pollinators for crucial plants found in the environment are declining.
  • Leading factors contributing towards this loss of habitat include property development and invasive products used within the soil.
  • Efforts are underway to plant flowers to create a new habitat for the butterflies and bees.
  • Some animals such as threatened turtles and salamanders are also on the brink of losing their natural home.
  • The eastern screech and the gray horn owl  – the most common owls in New Jersey – are endangered species.
  • There are 30 acres of land in the forest to potentially build boxes for owls; there is a potential project in collaboration with the Raptor Trust to bring owls to inhabit this mass of land.

On Monday, December 5th, Kayla, Bella & Ella convened with their other teammates Lucia and Lyla at the afterschool Technovation club to participate in the second phase of their Ideation process. They did so by discussing their findings, brainstorming alphabet words of elements found in their environment and completing the post-field work observations within their community documenting worksheets. This exercise has hopefully planted the seeds to launch the process of discovery and definition of their community challenge.