In October 2016, members of the MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group came to my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio to offer a training on using Hip Hop as a gateway to coding with Scratch. They presented this two-day class with Progressive Arts Alliance (PAA), a local organization that, as stated on their website, excites “students, teachers, and the general public with dynamic arts-in-education programs that showcase the depth and scope of the contemporary arts.”
My library system has worked closely with PAA in the past and was allowed five coveted spots at this training, which brought in people who work with young people from all over the country. The two days were intense but fun, teaching participants not only helpful features of Scratch, but details about hip hop culture, including dance lessons and the opportunity to do that other kind of “scratch”—scratching records—on DJing equipment. My colleagues and I took what we learned and created a four-day, two-hour per day summer camp on Hip Hop Coding for Grades 4-8 that we presented at our branches over the summer.
We recently had the opportunity to share some of the fun tricks we learned about Scratch with some of our Ohio Library peers, and I am excited to cast a wider net with this blog post. For those who are unaware or may only have a passing knowledge, Scratch (scratch.mit.edu) is a free online coding software. A quick, very intuitive way to learn—and teach—Scratch is available online here, with printable Scratch cards. Librarians will find 12 pretty much fully planned programs on this webpage, including helping kids code fashion dress up games, digital ping pong, and a virtual pet. The cards give instructions and guidance, but allow users to mix and match ideas to create unique codes.
For even younger kids, Scratch has what they call Microworlds, areas creating with limited coding “blocks” for kids to use, centered around a theme. The two closely related to our Hip Hop Coding Camp were the Music Microworld and the Hip Hop Dance Microworld.
We also learned how to put ourselves into Scratch as a “sprite,” or online character. The process is relatively easy. Take a picture in front of a white background (from experience, white works better than a green screen), import into Scratch, and then use their magic eraser tool to delete the backgrounds. The kids loved putting themselves into their project!
And finally, we learned how you can use Makey Makeys to enhance Scratch fun. We made “turntables” using electrical tape and foil, paper plates, Makey Makeys and Scratch. You can program Scratch to make music and then connect it to the Makey Makeys. When we did the camp, I found the kids enjoyed using Play-Doh, which is a great conductor, instead of electrical tape. They LOVED it! And so did we.
Maria Trivisonno is a Children’s Librarian at the Warrensville Heights Branch of Cuyahoga County Public Library, and can be contacted at email@example.com. She loves being an aunt, reading and discussing kids’ books, and all things Star Wars.
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