Blogger Maria Trivisonno

Families Coding Together

In October 2017, I had the opportunity to attend the National Center for Families Learning Annual Conference, which was held that year in Tucson, Arizona. Although libraries had a presence at the Conference (indeed—I met ALSC’s Angela Hubbard there and she encouraged me to write for the blog, hence this post!), other organizations that focus on family learning were present as well. I found the non-library sessions to be extremely interesting, and they helped me think outside of the box.


Daddy/Daughter coding

One such session was with PBS Kids and originated from WQED, the PBS station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. WQED partners with school districts in their service area to bring PBS Kids’ Family Creative Learning programs to locals. The session I attended discussed a family coding program that used Scratch Jr.’s PBS Kids version (free to download) aimed at children ages 5-8 and their siblings/caregivers. You can read about PBS Kids Family Engagement models here.


PBS Kids is very generous—the entire program and its materials can be found on this webpage. The facilitator guide tells you everything you need to know to offer the program, and all other materials are linked below.


My library piloted Families Coding Together this June. The program ran for four evenings, from 6-8 p.m. The first half hour featured a meal—we kept it simple and had pizza (cut in small pieces) and water. After that, children came with me for an activity and a story while adults learned about coding and its benefits for young minds with my colleague, Jo Schofield. Children and caregivers then came together to create on Scratch Jr. as a family.


I have used “regular” Scratch many times and have found that Scratch Jr. is great fun for younger children. Both versions have printable cards that give kids some direction while also letting them mix and match ideas for creative results. Scratch Jr. printable cards can be found here. If a four-session family coding program seems like too much at this time, you can easily create smaller, less intense programs with these printable cards.


Third generations hard at work

Scratch Jr. lent itself to whole family involvement. A toddler-aged sister was too young to code, but had great fun changing the colors and sizes of characters. Two Spanish-speaking grandmothers were able to fully participate, as Scratch Jr. relies on pictures rather than (English) words. One even told her family that she now wants an iPad!


How young have you attempted to have kids code? Have you ever reached out to public television to collaborate?


This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: III. Programming Skills and VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.

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