Scratch, the world’s largest kids’ coding platform, takes a peer-driven approach to engaging young people from all walks of life. The MIT-born nonprofit makes it easy for students to understand the backbone of coding, but users also become part of an online community designed to inspire others with a broad audience.
So it follows that Scratch’s approach to summer learning loss is a multi-week online camp in July and August that invites all students to create interaction, both with coding and with each other.
Created 15 years ago as part of an MIT project to introduce less cluttered software for children to learn to code, Scratch has more than 42 million active users in 200 countries, with an average age 12 years old. The original program, designed for children aged 8 to 16, was intended for use outside of school, but the software – which teaches coding but incorporates many academic skills – has been widely adopted by schools and colleges. educators. For ages 5-7, Scratch Junior can be used even by children who may not be able to read. With easy-to-use block-style coding, users – dubbed Scratchers – can create their own projects, whether digital stories, games or animations, and share them within the community.
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“Kids are having fun, it’s fun,” says Shawna Young, executive director of the Scratch Foundation. “They are able to create these projects. It’s based on this idea of yes, you’re learning, developing computer skills, but at the heart of the work, you’re really having fun and creating something you care about.
The nonprofit foundation operates the online platform with the goal of opening up coding opportunities to a more diverse population.
“We want kids to have this learning experience that’s very accessible and engaging and not limited to certain socioeconomic backgrounds,” Young says. “If you want to fight inequality, start by not having financial barriers.”
Scratch is free, backed by backers like the LEGO Foundation, AT&T, and Google. The nonprofit also partners with community organizations around the world through the Scratch Education Collaborative, to make learning accessible to students from traditionally underrepresented communities. From 40 organizations in the first year, there are now 91, with representation from over 20 countries. Scratch also recently engaged children with an American Sign Language tutorial to expand creative coding possibilities for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
“We recognize that how children learn matters, and it’s not fair,” says Young, noting that teachers tend to focus on the “what” – reading, writing and arithmetic. – rather than how it affects children’s enthusiasm, areas of interest and potential career paths. By creating a free tool and partnering with organizations that can incorporate it into their own education-focused programs, Scratch aims to build excitement and strengthen critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration. .
Christan Balch, the foundation’s community engagement manager, helps run the online Summer Scratch Camp. Open to everyone on the platform, the camp is free. “At the heart of camp, you’ll find it’s a shared journey of creating projects,” says Balch. “It’s an open invitation for Scratchers to create around a theme they might not otherwise have thought of, and to do so in a caring, caring, and collaborative community with others around the world.”
This summer’s theme is ‘Fantastic Fantasies’, with each week offering a new theme and project proposals (the theme for the week of August 15 is ‘Mythical Worlds’). Scrapers can get involved as much as they want – some come and go weekly, while others dive daily – and Balch says she loves seeing kids take on leadership roles and be recruited as camp counselors . “I love that part,” she says. “Advisors are online community scrapers who are helpful, kind and supportive. We see leaders forming in the online community and acting as resources and mentors for others. »
The goal of the camp is to “keep (school) kids engaged while teaching them skills,” says Balch. But they can also explore concepts that really interest them, which opens doors to all kinds of projects. Balch says she recently logged on to a camp day and saw an animated unicorn-dragon-cat artwork that a youngster had invented, a story about finding a trail of glitter and a game that placed the world’s slowest tree in a race.
“I see a wide range of things and I’m excited,” she says. “The Scratchers are the most creative, funniest, kindest and most expressive kids I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and Scratch Camp is an example of that.”