When I stepped into MIT’s Media Lab in Cambridge this past weekend, I had no idea that I would step out with such passion and enthusiasm. I couldn’t wait to get back to Kentucky to share every detail I soaked up while celebrating Scratch Day with students and adults from all over the world. Over 338 events were held, spanning 57 countries, allowing people to connect through creativity and coding with one common language – Scratch.
Scratch is a FREE project by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. It allows students to program their very own interactive stories, animations and games. These can all be shared with others around the world through the online community. Want to learn more? Join us at the Innovations for Learning Conference on June 11 at Bryan Station High School for a free day of engagement!
Made possible by the Fund for Transforming Education, I was able to celebrate this day along with three other Fayette County STEM teachers. I’ll introduce them by sharing just one thought they shared with me about the experience:
Gayla Webb (Clays Mill Elementary) “I walked away from Scratch Day realizing that children can incorporate hands-on objects into their programming.”
Jennifer Rodabaugh (Landsdowne Elementary) “Scratch can be a gateway for introducing our students the basic fundamentals of how computer programming works. It can help them bridge the gap between just using the technology around them and becoming creators of the technology being used.”
Brittany Haehlen (Southern Elementary) “Scratch is easier to incorporate into a classroom than most teachers think! Some ways might be: language arts teacher could retell stories through scratch, music teachers could create instruments using Makey Makeys and circuits, and math teachers could use graphing coordinates to create scratch games. Scratch really could be incorporated into any content area and it gives students a chance to be creative and use problem solving skills.”
The MIT Media Lab was full of excitement and energy. Everywhere you turned, students were engrossed in using Scratch for interactive storytelling, to create musical instruments with MaKey Makey devices, to generate an online hip-hop dance party, and much more. The best part? Leaders weren’t having to stand in front of the room and demonstrate step by step. They circulated the room while kids plugged up their devices and played. There was a lot of trial and errors experimentation as a program didn’t quite work the way a kid wanted it to. However, you could see the determination in their eyes as they tried a new approach or even asked a friend for their advice on solving a problem. Cheers were abundant and explosive from around the room as success was achieved. The room was full of laughter as children and their parents worked together to solve problems.
As if being at MIT wasn’t intimidating enough, I often found myself bewildered by the intelligence level around me. At one point, I found myself sitting at a table curious about its scattered contents. There were wires, bananas, carrots, colored plates, sponges, play dough and other odds and ends. Imagine my surprise as an eight year old sat beside me and quickly assembled a closed circuit with the materials and a MaKey MaKey, created a program on Scratch, and produced a cat on a paper plate that meowed and sang when you tapped on the different play dough whiskers! Somethings, you just have to see to believe. Another time, I was tinkering with some gears and Lego pieces. A twelve year old showed me up by building and programming one of these little contraptions.
My thoughts: Incorporating Scratch into your classroom can be as easy or as complex as you would like for it to be. It allows students to think creatively, work through real life applications, reason through possibilities and solutions, and collaborate through local and global connections. All of these being important as a 21st century learner, right? If our brightest students, engineers, and scientists are being trained in this creative and explorative environment, shouldn’t this be a model for our own classrooms? Shouldn’t students be able to build and create and make mistakes to learn from?
In conclusion, I zoomed in on the world map showing all of the Scratch events. Ready to put Kentucky on the map? Mark your calendars now for our upcoming Scratch Day, May 14, 2016.
I invite you to visit Twitter and search for #ScratchDay to see more amazing photos, projects and Scratch videos.