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Our NorCal Scratch Day 2011

 

An "Open House" Approach with Student Mentors: Lessons Learned

 

This was my first Scratch Day and, probably since I'm new to this, I opted for an "Open House" format.  My day job of the past ten years has been working as the Computer Tech/Technology Instructor/Website Maintainer for a public elementary school in San Rafael, CA.  As such, I have access to a relatively late-model 29-seat iMac computer lab and an adjoining storage/conference room full of old jellybean iMacs and a few old PCs. 

Together with a group of five young Scratch mentors, of varying degrees of experience, we hosted a four-hour Scratch open house in the computer lab.  Scratch was downloaded and ready to go on all the computers and the Scratch website was open, logged in to a generic NorthMarinScratch account which I created for the event.   The teen mentors were a little nervous at first, but once people arrived and they could start showing them Scratch, everything went smoothly.
 

To generate buzz about the event I asked the district to distribute flyers to its schools, I created a Facebook event, and I used Twitter and the local newspaper’s community calendar to get the word out.   I was worried that we might get too many people, but it turned out that we got exactly the right amount.  We had a full house (without overflowing) with plenty of the exact target audience: local kids in grades 3 – 8. 

When kids arrived, we presented them with the Scratch Day rules, had them (and their parents, if attending), sign in, and directed them to a Scratch mentor in the main lab (3rd grade/age 9 and up) or the mini-lab (younger kids).   Eight year olds started in the mini lab and transitioned to the main room with a parent. 
 

Most of the kids had no experience with Scratch and were easy to engage.  Mentors got these kids started by showing them projects on the site, or their own projects, and then walking them through the interface, how to change and create sprites, and then the basic control, motion, looks and sound blocks.  Several students uploaded projects to the NorthMarinScratch account at http://scratch.mit.edu/users/NorthMarinScratch .  A couple of the more experienced Scratchers demonstrated their projects over the LCD projector to the group and talked about how they work and what it takes to complete a successful project. 
 

What We Did Right: 

  • Having plenty of student mentors made it possible for many students to get individualized attention. 

  • The feedback form gave us a good idea of what people liked and didn’t. 

  • Two experienced Scratchers shared their advanced projects with the group using the LCD projector and took questions.

  • We had enough room to accommodate everyone, including the younger kids. 

 What I’d Change:

Next time we will do a workshop format and have a limited number of students pre-register.  We will have group activities, project challenges and break-outs.  Some people found the format too impersonal.  More experienced Scratchers need to be able to share more with other experienced Scratchers.  We should have allowed for more Q&A with the more experienced Scratchers.

Technical Points:

A very important point for educators who want to have students upload to a Scratch account while at school is to make sure that they amend the Scratch.ini file on all computers.  If this can be done easily from one computer, that is ideal, otherwise you can do it manually on each. You can find out how to do this at http://info.scratch.mit.edu/Network_Installation.   

The older jellybean macs were set up in the conference room with Scratch 1.2 installed. I was unable to get 1.2 installed on any Mac running anything before OS 10.1.2  so maybe that should be specified on the older OS download page at http://info.scratch.mit.edu/Scratch_Previous_Versions .  The main difference I noticed between 1.2 and 1.4 (besides some different examples) is that you cannot actualize blocks from within the script column, but have to run the whole project with the flag each time.  It was fine for the much younger kids whose projects were very simple.

Many thanks to the Dixie School District for sponsoring this event and making it possible!

Images: 
Comments
Member

 Hi Karen,

My son knew Scratch and taught his friend.  A friend of my other son was interested in programming and so I recruited her to be an intern when I taught Scratch at a summer camp. Another kid was in middle school and he took my Scratch class one year and interned at the summer camp after that.  Yet another kid had taught himself Scratch years before and when I mentioned Scratch Day at an evening science event that I organize at the local high school, got all excited and said that he loved Scratch.  So I recruited him.  He is now studying Computer Science at UC Santa Cruz. The girl is studying Inforatics at UI Bloomington.  :-)

And thank *you* - and Mitch, of course. Scratch is so awesome.

Alfia

Member

Oh, thank you for the update -- I love hearing about the different paths the Scratchers have pursued!

Hope all is well,
K

Member

Hi Jose,

We first had the kids show how to do a simple animation with sound.  They later showed them some of the projects they themselves had made or that they liked, so as to show what is possible with Scratch. 

I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Alfia

Member

Hi Alfia,

Thank you very much for your attention!

Sincerely,

José Carlos

Member

Sorry for my english still write very little.

I've enjoyed your experience.

You who set the games? or children who invented it?

Member

Hi Karen,

I run a science seminar for teens at a local high school and I brought Scratch Day flyers to one of the sessions and spoke about it.  After the session a young man came up to me and told me how much he loves Scratch and that he discovered it several years ago and that it propelled him into computer programming.  I invited him on the spot to get some volunteer hours by helping on Scratch Day and he said, "Absolutely!".  He's Jesse, our senior mentor, Fourex on Scratch.  My younger son has been doing Scratch for a few months and I did a workshop for one of his male friends, and a girl from the high school (friend of my older son), and a 6th grader who is very into computers whose mom works with me at the local elementary school.  I just showed them the basics of animation and told them to make some projects - and they did.  We met twice before Scratch Day as a group to reinforce knowledge of the program and then early on the day of to talk about how to approach the kids.  The basic idea was to show them the stage, the sprites, and to demonstrate just the simplest code blocks: control, motion, looks and sound.  Jesse was available for the more advanced Scratchers.  The also showed the kids their own projects and other projects they like from the site.  It was a big success.  :^}

Hope this helps.  Scratch is so much fun!

Alfia

Member

Alfia, thank you -- this is awesome. I loved reading this story about your Scratch Day experience. (And the video was super great! What a fun comic book aesthetic...)

I love the teen mentorship structure. How did you recruit the five teen Scratchers? (Were they people you already knew?) What preparation or support or background information did you give the teen mentors before the event?

Again, thank you so much!
K