Scratch is widely popular, free educational software for children ages 8 and up. And its simple, graphics-based programming language has a dual mission, says Professor Mitchel Resnick, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Scratch Team. The MIT group helped develop the software in partnership with The Learning through Engineering, Art, and Design (LEAD) Project based in Hong Kong.
“We designed Scratch to help young people prepare for life in today’s fast-changing society,” Prof. Resnick notes in this book’s foreword.
“As young people create Scratch projects, they are not just learning how to write computer programs. They are learning to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively—essential skills for success and happiness in today’s world.”
Super Scratch Programming Adventure deftly combines comics and programming tasks with the steps necessary to create “projects inspired by classic arcade games that can be programmed (and played!) in an afternoon.” The book covers version 1.4 of the software.
One thing you definitely don’t do in Scratch is go to a command line and key in some code. The book notes: “Scratch was designed to prevent common beginner pitfalls like misspellings and errors in consistency. Instead of typing commands, programming in Scratch is performed by dragging and joining programming blocks.”
And this isn’t just “Hello, world!” stuff. Soon after meeting the program’s graphic characters and seeing how to operate the program, kids start working at the x-y axis level to control movements by Scratchy the Cat. They also learn how to adjust the speed of Scratchy’s maneuvers and save their file.
From there, the book continues forward in 10 chapters that are organized as increasingly challenging stages. And most of the stages involve creating a new, simple game.
For example, in stage 2, the chapter focus is “Learn how to design new costumes and program a sprite’s movements, reactions, and sound effects.” By stage 7, the focus is: “Learn how to design an interactive maze with a guard, booby traps, and treasure!” By stage 10, children have learned how to upload their own Scratch projects to the Scratch website to share with others around the world (with their parents’ permission, of course).
Many kids may be able to pick up this book, open the program, and figure out everything on their own. But the laudable goals of Super Scratch Programming Adventure are best served when teachers and parents stay involved as mentors.
Besides, you might learn a few new things from Scratch programming, too.
— Si Dunn