Scratching away

Right now I’m feeling a huge sense of satisfaction after delivering 3 x 3 hour sessions of Scratch at Yatton Junior School with James Irwin (@gracesauto), whose employer allowed him to join me during school hours to mentor young children on how to code.

We set off on this journey feeling a little nervous; 26 children in the computer room, all waiting for our instructions. We didn’t want to tell the children what to do, but rather encouraged them to use their creativity to create anything they wanted. The children already had a bit of experience with Scratch, so it wasn’t difficult to get them started.

Most of the children started to draw straightaway. We were very impressed of how good they are at it, too! Like last time, the boys went straight into drawing race tracks, and the girls drew bugs, characters, disco balls, ballerinas, and that sort of thing.

Soon after we started, hands were going up. ‘How do I make my sprite move to this point?’,’ I want my character to say hello’,’ I want my sprite to rotate and face the other way,’ and so on. We made sure every child got some 1-to-1 attention and explained basic programming in the context of what they were trying to achieve.

We started to see a lot happening on screens, and the children basked in the glory of their accomplishment. We encouraged collaboration by asking the children to work on each others projects, and help their peers fill in the gaps in their understanding.

One of the highlights for me was to see a three-player car race game which the children created and started to play against each other! Boy, did they have fun with that! We then challenged them by asking them what they could add to the game, and how they could improve it. They got straight down to building new ‘obstacles’.

The girls produced a real creative mix: pac man, a maze, a performing ballerina, stories, and colourful animations. It was great to see them confident with what they were making and helping each other out when asked.

As with any programming, there were some frustrations along the way and the children encountered their first bug. Thinking logically about it, the problem solving was itself a good learning experience.

There were different levels of complexity going on with the childrens’ creations – both girls and boys. I loved the fact that at this age there is no gender separation; they can all code!

I loved the experience and hope that in September we can go back to school for more coding!

If you are interested in helping in your local school, you can run an after school Code Club, join a Coder Dojo near you, or become an STEM ambassador.


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