- Middle School
Scratch, a product of MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group, is a programming language designed specifically for students. As a visual language, Scratch utilizes color-coordinated blocks of script that snap together to control sprites, backgrounds, and sounds. Using these blocks, students can create games, animated stories, presentations, and more. Today, the cloud-based Scratch platform has over 22 million registered users across the globe and has become the go-to program for introducing students to coding.
At Kinkaid, all sixth-grade students have the opportunity to explore Scratch programming as a part of Mrs. Deller’s year-long technology class. To promote collaboration, problem-solving, and creativity, students work independently or in teams to create interactive projects that demonstrate an understanding of visual coding.
One sixth-grader, Stella, created a choose-your-own-adventure game called Mr. Bear on a Magic Carpet Ride (her code for just one sprite can be seen above). Stella acknowledged the challenges involved with coding, but relished in working with others and the satisfaction that came with overcoming obstacles. As she described, “Scratch allows you to use your imagination and has no limits to what you can create. It has a few complicated blocks that are hard to figure out, but being able to see other people's projects helps you to learn about new blocks and how to use them.”
Another sixth-grade student, Siddharth, enjoyed the Scratch unit for many reasons. “Scratch makes you think and encourages you to be creative because you have to find your own solutions to things, and it inspires people to code. There are multiple solutions for one problem and sometimes one works better than the other.” He utilized a MakeyMakey to link his Scratch project, Drum Lords, to a handmade drum set he built at home. Each panel on the drum kit corresponds to a key on the keyboard which in turn activates the drum sounds through blocks of code in Scratch. The video below shows Sid demonstrating how it works.
The benefits of coding are bountiful as Mrs. Deller can attest. “Many students have to step outside of their comfort zones when using Scratch, but learning to code strengthens their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. During this project, my classroom is buzzing with activity and conversations. At the end of our Scratch unit, the big payoff is how proud my students are after writing their own code and sharing it with me, their classmates, and the Scratch community.”