May 17-23 is Scratch Week, and we at The Coding Space can’t wait to celebrate! The weeklong virtual event promises tons of activities and surprises for the millions of avid Scratchers out there. In case you’re not familiar, Scratch is a block-based programming language designed for children and used by people of all ages in over 150 countries.
In Scratch, beginner programmers and coding experts alike can create stories, animations, and games and in doing so, use code as a means of creative expression, idea generation, and exploration.
Scratch was created in 2003 by the MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten group as a new way to teach kids how to code. As the project was adapted and shared with students, it became clear that Scratch’s impact was even bigger than that. In a November 2012 TED Talk, Mitch Resnick who led the development of Scratch puts it this way: “As kids are creating projects, they’re learning to code; even more importantly, they’re coding to learn.”
A wonderful example of this is one shared by Resnick. One of his students wanted to add a scoreboard to his game. Resnick showed him how by using the “Make a Variable” block to store and manipulate a number, and the grateful young coder thanked him over and over again in utter excitement to apply this new concept. The question Resnick drew from this scenario is this: How often are teachers thanked by their students for teaching them variables?
Rather than struggling in math class without knowing how or why a variable might be applied, this child was motivated to learn and understand because he saw a reason to learn it in the first place.
In Scratch, kids intuitively travel across disciplines as they learn to apply physics to make their character jump realistically or use the Cartesian coordinate system to move their character through a maze. Like Resnick’s student, young coders are inspired to learn new skills because they are motivated to apply those lessons to bring their creative ideas to life. Seeing the product of their knowledge in playable games or interactive storylines is a huge motivator for students, and for good reason: there’s nothing quite like seeing someone enjoy something we’ve made to keep us learning, growing, and creating. Can you tell we love Scratch? That’s why we use it every day in our coding classes and start every beginner student on it.
Just as not every person who learns to read and write will end up a professional writer, not every child who comes through our program will end up a software engineer. But what they’ll learn through coding will take them wherever they want to go. It will challenge them to break complex concepts down into smaller, solvable parts, to experiment, to collaborate through sharing work and editing other people’s code, to figure out why something isn’t working and how to fix it, to push through feelings of frustration and keep going until something new is born, to express who they are and what they care about. As each week of learning passes by at The Coding Space, we see again and again that when our students start learning to code in Scratch, learning to code is just the beginning.