Scratch: Kids Get the Programming Itch

01 May 2016 . Education #kids #programming

Every year our children’s grammar school offers mini-courses taught by volunteers in a variety of subjects. This year I had the pleasure of teaching a programming course for 3rd-5th graders. I had 70 minutes to educate kids on some computer related topic. Most of the students had already completed Hour of Code so I wanted to find something simple enough for 3rd graders but interesting enough to keep 5th graders’ attention. I eventually settled on teaching an Introduction to Scratch. I felt it was perfect. It used graphical blocks containing code statements like HoC but it was much more open ended and would allow us to go beyond solving mazes.

I looked for a basic project to show the kids and settled on a pong clone from Learn to Program with Scratch. After taking the students on a tour of the Scratch interface we pieced the pong game together. First we created the ball, made it move and bounce around the screen. Then we created the paddle, got it to follow our mouse cursor, and got the ball to bounce off of it. Finally, we created the game over condition when the paddle misses the ball and it hits the bottom of the screen.

Pong Demo

The students were amazed when the ball started moving and bouncing. After we got the paddle going they were really excited. Here was something that they had created that was moving and interactive! It was lots of fun to see the kids get excited about what they had accomplished. Some kids went off on their own and wanted their games to make sounds. Others were having fun just playing their games. It was a great experience and hope to get a chance to do it again next year.

Here is the Pong Demo. Note: It is built in Scratch 1.4 to match what the school had installed. You can load it in Scratch 2.0 without any issues.