Learning Scratch in HS 101 – #bigmakerbook

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Getting to Know Scratch

Today I started the process of teaching all of the freshmen at Ryan High School how to program games in Scratch using project 19 from our Big Book of Makerspace Projects.

I designed this project to be a hybrid between Pong and a chasing game.  I was hoping that my instructions would teach kids how to make games, but also allow for a lot of personalization. AND IT DID!  Instead of giving the explicit instructions from the book, I created “exploration” sheets based on the book so that students could explore Scratch to learn how to create games. I made them as Googledocs, but also offered the option of paper for the students who preferred it. (And surprisingly a lot of them preferred paper!)

Student Personalization

I was so happy today that as soon as students started making games, they immediately came up with their own ideas of how they wanted each game to function.

  • “Can I make the ball bounce off a paddle like pong?
  • “How can I make a ghost that springs back and forth on the screen.”
  • “I’d like to make a game where two players try to catch a basketball and then shoot hoops and score.”
  • “Could I make apples fall from a tree to hit my sprite?”
  • “I want to make four sprites like Scooby Doo characters that once one is out of the game the next one will play. How do I do that?”
  • “Instead of dodgeball, can I make my character kick a soccer ball into a goal?”
  • “Can my sprite fly?”
  • “How can I program two players? Use the WASD keys?”

More to Come!

I loved all the hacking and personalization. Last year, I attempted a similar game instruction and it did not go as clearly as this one.  I found that when students collaborated this year, they had more profound ideas on what to include in their Scratch games. However, if students worked alone, they were able to get further along in their programming.

I also had many native Spanish speakers that found the translation button in Scratch! It was so helpful for me, because I was able to teach these second language students how to program and I learned more Spanish to boot.

I have three more days of teaching Scratch before getting all of the freshmen at Ryan into the library for this coding practice. I can’t wait to see what they all create!




Mashing Maker Workshops as a Way of Extending Learning


As a maker educator, our job is to nudge students toward the possibilities by developing a maker mindset in all of our students. One way I attempt to do that is by cultivating a culture of creativity in the library and letting students play to learn (and sometimes re-learn to play!)

We want our students tinkering. But sometimes, the older the students are, the more difficult this becomes because they’ve fallen out of the habit of playing and what Seymour Papert calls “hard fun.” I thought a lot about this idea when I wrote the “Librarian’s Guide to littleBits” last year.  I interviewed different librarians in the field on their feelings about “Tinkering vs Guided Learning” and asked each librarian how they facilitated both types of learning in their libraries. Across the board, we all discussed the value in libraries instituting open makerspace time and guided project time (workshops, activities, etc). Plus, there was an agreement that a maker facilitates things in a very hands-off way compared to normal library programming. Instead of giving answers, a maker facilitator nudges makers to think of their own ideas and solutions. A maker facilitator also lets students choose the way they want their project to end.

Creating a culture of creativity and nudging students toward tinkering are just a few of the reasons I began hosting maker workshops at my own library makerspace. Sometimes these workshops introduce my students to new skills. I host “hands-on” play sessions at my maker professional development too. Teachers learn to create something and then I attempt to nudge them toward all of the possibilities of a maker tool or material. For example, read this reflection from one of my maker participants from a recent workshop. When she needed help, I offered her tips for debugging why her scribblebot wasn’t working instead of giving her direct instructions for how to make it work. I asked her to try a few things and gave her a few ideas to try. By doing this, I’d indirectly taught her that the teacher doesn’t always have the answers (or maybe I should say give the answers…). She emailed me a few weeks later to tell me (and her fellow librarians) that she realized that even though not having answers can be a scary thing, it is a good thing too. Sometimes, we need to let the students have all of the answers. Imagine how empowering that must be for students? To figure out how to debug a problem when the teacher can not? Now she and her students are taking scribblebots MUCH further than the concepts introduced in my initial playful workshop.

And THAT is why I think it’s important to have some guided projects in a library makerspace. Giving students new skills helps them go further as makers.


To showcase this with a specific anecdote of a student’s workshop makerspace mashup, take this tale from Lamar Library. Two years ago, I hosted three different workshops at the beginning of the school year:

  1. A student-led origami workshop
  2. A teacher -led light up origami workshop with a simple circuit LED
  3.  A quick propulsion Bristlebot workshop. Students made simple robots with a toothbrush head and pager motor.

Students were allowed to keep all of these projects because they were low cost and the bristlebot kits were purchased with a grant.

Then this happened….

One of my students took the concepts from all three workshops and made this awesome robot paper circuit origami thing….

(Thank you Facebook memories for reminding me of this quirky creation!)

Why did he do that? Because a workshop or a project isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning of an exploration of the “vast possibilities” of a skill, of a material, or of an idea. I’m basing this wording and concept of “exploring the vast possibilities of student ideas” on my talks with Jay Silver, Amos Blanton, Ryan Jenkins, and Patrick Benfield during my research for Challenge-Based Learning and mashing it up a bit with my own ideas. These mash-ups from student-led ideas and the learning that it reflects are at the heart of making.


If you are interested in reading more about projects and workshops, read this article “The Value of Guided Projects in a Makerspace” from Diana Rendina. (We also go into depth about a lot of this post’s concepts in our book scheduled to be released in the spring.)

What type of makerspace mashup fun have you seen in your own students? What type of things have they made by taking a concept further?