Sometimes hobbies grow to become much more than hobbies. Some children who are in the school play in fifth grade may decide to study drama in college. After college they may return to their communities to bring the gifts of drama to others. The high school student who shows business initiative in high school may expand that entrepreneurial spirit after high school. As they say, great oak trees grow from little acorns. If this is true, what kinds of acorns are we planting with our youth?
The good folks at the Lifelong Kindergarten at MIT's Media Lab asked themselves that question and came up with this good answer: Scratch. Scratch is a free download (for Mac or Windows) that lets children build their own interactive games, animations, and digital stories. After building their creations, children can share their Scratch creations via the Web. Children can learn from each other, be inspired by one another, and build upon each others' creations.
I first learned about Scratch from a third-grader who had learned Scratch the previous summer at a summer camp. "I like building things in Scratch," he explained with tremendous pride. "I can teach you how to do it, too." Those are the words we need to be hearing from our youth. I love hearing, "I've got ideas for improving my Scratch program," or "my friend showed me some neat tricks in Scratch."
Scratch puts children in the driver's seat. They become actors upon the world rather than acted upon by the world. What starts out as a small hobby can grow to become something much more down the line.
To help expand the number of children and adults who know about Scratch, Scratch Day 2009 was invented by the same people who created Scratch. On May 16, 2009, at locations around the world, Scratch will be shown and explained to people who have never seen Scratch before.
To get up to speed quickly about Scratch, check out Darrel Branson's Scratch Resources page.
Darrel is a talented educational technology specialist in Victoria, Australia. The Scratch Tutorials by Students from EXPO For Excellence Magnet Elementary School are particularly well done. You can view them online here or download them all via this link.
A very good Spanish intro to Scratch can be found on Youtube, created by Pacho.
Jose Ramon of Valencia, Spain, created this Scratch overview in Spanish.
Large oak trees grow from small acorns. Ladies and gentleman, start your planting. Find a Scratch Day event that's near you or create your own Scratch Day event with a single child. And then watch things grow.
Here's my vision. If we include Scratch and multimedia Scratch learning materials on many of the refurbished computers going out to kids who don't have a computer, we'll create no-economic-barriers learning environments that will grow entirely new geek cultures. The people and organizations on CompuMentor's Computer Refurbishers email list is a good starting point for that.
[Phil Shapiro works as the public geek at the Takoma Park Maryland Library and is an adjunct professor of education at American University. In his free time he delivers donated computers to children and adults who don't have them. He is one of the organizers of Scratch Day at Takoma Park Middle School, in Silver Spring, Maryland. He is reachable at email@example.com.]
This story, "Scratch Day 2009 - computer programming for kids" was originally published by PCWorld.