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Pharaoh Project: A Story from Ingrid Gustafson about Pharaoh Scratch Project

Ingrid shares a wonderful anecdote about the possibilities of Scratch. In the following story, she describes what happened when Scratch was placed in the hands of a struggling seventh grader in social science class.


“I had a really enthusiastic teacher of social science, who was open to using new things to keep the students motivated. I told her about Scratch and she said, ‘Well, I have this computer in our classroom.’ So, she let me install Scratch and see what happens. I sat down with one of the students that she said might be interested. I showed him once how to do something, didn’t hear from him again, and a couple weeks later, the teacher said that he had kept asking to use the computer to do Scratch. They happened to be on Egypt that unit. I don’t know if it was an alternative to the classroom work they were doing, but if they were working on a worksheet or doing research or notes or something like that, I think that this student wasn’t as strong with those things. The teacher would say, ‘If you want to, instead, you can go use Scratch on the computer.’


So he was working on this Scratch project and came down to my office one day and said, ‘I need your help.’ We walk down, and he has this amazing, Egyptian Scratch project. Basically, he drew a little sprite of a pharaoh. Now, the social science teacher’s thing was that anything that you draw must be historically accurate. So the pharaoh looked like a pharaoh. He had drawn pyramids, historically accurate pyramids, right color scheme and everything, and the pharaoh would jump over the pyramids. He had learned how to make a scrolling background, and he had learned how to push the space bar, so that the pharaoh would jump. He had also learned how to broadcast, so every time the pharaoh ran into a pyramid, it would turn into a big, blood splat. And that’s what he labeled the costume: ‘Splat,’ which then had to be changed into a historically accurate mummy.


His question was that he couldn’t get the score to work, and he couldn’t get the arrow to work to make the mummy move left. So I’m sitting with him, and he’s really frustrated. I didn’t want to tell him the answer. It’s that fine line between how much do you tell them and how much do you let them figure out. We talked about the number grid, and I found out later that he’s not very strong in math either. We talked about where is the zero on the stage, where is the x-axis and where is the y-axis. We’re looking at the numbers, and then it was like a light bulb went off. He went, ‘Oh! It’s negative! So when you push the left arrow, it moves negative ten steps. He totally got it. His face just showed it. I don’t even know how to describe it, but he got it, and from then on, I feel as if that might have been the tipping point for him in terms of understanding Scratch and how you have to make the connection between math, because after that, he got the score right away, he added sound effects, he made it so that the pyramids changed size, and he set it to random, which I thought was genius. So every time the pyramids scrolled through, you never knew what size it was going to be, and he changed it to a random speed. Then, as the best form of flattery, everyone started to copy his project. Everyone in his class said, ‘I wanna go on the computer. Can I go on the computer?’ They start making something, and what do you know, it had pharaohs and pyramids in it!


This is one of my favorite stories, because he just got it. I went and told his math teacher about it because I thought, ‘Oh, she’d probably be really excited about it,’ and she was just baffled. She said, ‘How did he get that?’


So that’s my favorite story.”

Anders Berggren

This is soooo lovely... Why isn´t school like this every day, for all students and with all teachers?