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21 Mar 2021
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Scratch 101: Everything you Need to Know About Scratch Programming for Kids

Hritika Singh

What is Scratch programming for kids?

Scratch is an event-driven, block-based visual programming language, ideally for children between the age of 8 and 16 years. Developed by MIT Media Lab and Playful Invention Company, Scratch is co-founded by Brian Silverman, Paula Bonta and Mitchel Resnick.

It was first developed in 2003 with the intention of teaching coding in a basic and simple way to kids. However, today people of all age groups use Scratch to begin their coding journey. Scratch is used in 150+ countries and has been translated into 60 + languages. Students from all backgrounds and disciplines (Math, liberal arts, Social Sciences) learn to code on Scratch as it enables them to build the right skills needed for the 21st century. It helps them to think in a creative way while working, learning and collaborating in teams.

The name Scratch is derived from the process called scratching used by DJs where records are chimed together to create various types of sound effects. Just like the DJs mix different types of sound to create music, the programming language, Scratch also mixes graphics and sound to create video games and animations.

The team’s slogan "Imagine, Program, Share" encourages the community of learners to share and reuse codes, ideas and projects. The team emphasises learners to “remix” other’s projects. This simply means that a Scratcher (person who uses Scratch) makes a copy of a project already made by someone in the community and adds their own elements and changes. The Scratch team says that this is a great way of learning and inbuilding creative ideas in an individual who is just starting out. Even minor changes are considered a remix. However, the Scratcher must give due credits to the original creator.

Understanding Scratch

The user interface of scratch is very simple and easier for kids to understand. There are four prime elements-

  1. Stage area - the place where all the results would be displayed.
  2. Sprite - the main character of the project created by the Scratcher. Each sprite is programmed with a script
  3. Block Palette - the number of blocks with commands present on the left side of the screen.
  4. Coding area - where the blocks are dragged from the Block palette. This is where the code of the project is written.

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There are different types of blocks on the blocks palette for programming the sprite. They are used to create the code. Each type of block has its own shape and it fits like a puzzle. This helps in preventing syntax errors. The different types of blocks according to their shape includes Hat Blocks, C Blocks, Reporter Blocks, Boolean Blocks, Cap Blocks and Stack Blocks.

When multiple blocks are connected in a series, it becomes a script. In the latest version of Scratch, there are ten categories of blocks available. These include Motion, Looks, Sound, Event, Control, Sensing, Operators, Variables, List, and My Blocks.

What is the Scratch community?

Scratch programming for kids has a huge community when learners and mentors come together to share their progress and knowledge. All scratch learners get access to the scratch online community. Participating in such conversations can help kids explore different projects of learners, get new ideas, experiment and learn in a friendly environment.

The community has members of various ages, interests and background. It is a collaborative and open learning community where the students at different stages of their learning process share their progress and ideas while the mentors on the platform share the feedback.

This helps the kids to grow in a peer-to-peer learning environment help them become better at communication. The exposure to the diversity of people and their ideas will help the kids acknowledge different perspectives and solutions to the same question. At the same time, it will also assist them in building their critical skills.

The MIT scratch team ensures the safe participation of all its members. Every member needs to adhere to scratch online community guidelines as they have a strict privacy policy.

Why Scratch?

Scratch programming for kids is a great way of kick-starting one's coding journey. Once the kid is comfortable with the nitty-gritty of the programming language and understands the basics, they can then move to more complex languages. Scratch acts as a fun starting point in a kids coding journey, there are many benefits of starting to learn how to code using scratch programming. Let's take a look at some of these.

Helps them become a better planner

To create any game or animation the kid first needs to plan out the course of action. This means they need to plan the background the elements and the theme of the product that they are building. When put together this then becomes a game or an animation. This step by step planning and Organisation skill will help them become a better individual in their future.

Curate their creativity

Scratch is a block-based programming language. ideal Creators can decide and build their characters, background and theme. Scratch is a platform where kids can make endless projects out of their imaginations, that improves their creativity and imaginative skills and makes them more innovative.

Helps and become a better problem solver

Introducing Scratch to kids can help them get familiarized with the basic concepts of coding. This way they are exposed to the practical aspects of math and science concepts that include x-y coordinates, degrees, gravity, velocity and so on. This puts them well-ahead in the learning curve. They are also able to grasp the basic benefits of coding at a young age which prepares them better for their future.

Scratch Vs Scratch Jr

Scratch Jr is much-like Scratch but has a simpler interface. Scratch Jr is ideal for kids between ages 5-8 years. While Scratch is ideal for kids between the ages of 8-16 years. Users just require basic reading skills to get started with Scratch Jr. It is available on iOS, Android and Chromebook.

By using the sign blocks, kids can create their own animated stories with multiple backgrounds and can create many interesting game projects.

In other words, Scratch Jr is a simpler version of Scratch. Kids can enhance their creativity by using Scratch Jr without necessarily having the knowledge of mathematics or science.

Kids can create their projects using Sprites or the main character of their project. Scratch Jr comes with a well-equipped library of sprites to choose from. One can always customise the sprite using the Paint Editor tool. Dragging the blocks into the coding area forms a sequence. The blocks are icon-based and it seems like fixing puzzle pieces together.

The user interface of Scratch Jr is quite simple compared to Scratch. There are only the basic categories of blocks available on the platform. This makes it easier for the user to understand.

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How to get started with Scratch Jr?

Here’s a step-by-step guide for getting started with Scratch Jr -

  1. Open your projects page and click on the canvas with the plus sign to start a new project.
  2. Make your basic settings - change the background, add text, colour, layout from the top of your screen.
  3. Personalise your character or Sprite using the paintbrush icon. You can also add more sprites using the Plus sign below the existing sprite.
  4. You will be able to see the ‘scenes’ on the right-hand side of your screen. Add or customise scenes according to the plan of your project.
  5. You will find the coding blocks on the bottom of the screen. You can start adding blocks in your coding area. This way you would be able to add movement, sound and other customizations to your project. On having a series of blocks, you can click on the first one to see what you have created!
  6. To add more than one character, add a ‘Start’ block at the beginning and an ‘End’ block at the end. Click on the green-coloured start’ flag to start with your animation.

Scratch Jr to Scratch - a step by step transition

While kids can choose any of their desired language based on their level of learning, it becomes easier for them to learn things as the difficulty level increases from easy to difficult. Transitioning through levels of difficulty fosters the creativity of the children while keeping them curious at all times.

A research by Dr Merina Bers, shows 7 powerful computational ideas that appear in Scratch and Scratch Jr learners. It shows how the skills are developed as and when children move through levels.

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[Source: Tuft University DevTech Research Group]

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ideal age group for learning Scratch?

People of all age groups begin learning to code using Scratch. However, it is ideal for young kids between the age group of 8 and 16 years. ScratchJr on the other hand is ideal for kids between the ages of 5 and 7 years.

Can I use Scratch offline?

Yes, you can download the Scratch app from the official Scratch website or any app store on your device. It allows you to work on your project without an internet connection. The Scratch app allows you to create Scratch projects without an internet connection.

What are the system requirements for using Scratch?

Scratch can run smoothly on your web browsers, desktops, laptops and tablets. You can also view your projects on your phone but cannot edit them. Officially supported web browsers on the desktop are - Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Safari. On tablets, it is - Mobile Chrome, Mobile Safari.

How do I generate ideas for my Scratch Projects?

You can start by “remixing” available projects in the Scratch community. Remixing simply means that you can make changes and modifications to an existing project. This will help you think creatively and is a good starting point. However, always remember to give due credits to the original creator of the project. You can refer to the Ideas section of the community to start working on a project.

MEET THE AUTHOR
Hritika Singh

An edtech enthusiast, avid reader who is found exploring new places and writing about them.