By Kristina Holzweiss, School Library Journal Librarian of the Year, 2015
Who ever thought that there'd be a celebration called Scratch Day? If you're an expert “scratcher” or even a beginner, here are some tips for hosting Scratch Day in your school library.
Invite teachers to bring their classes to the library to learn the fundamentals of making their own video games and animations. Rather than focusing on one grade level or subject area, invite everyone in the school! Teachers are always looking for ways to connect curriculum to technology that is fun and engaging. Students can work together to create trivia review games, as well as videos about important events in history.
Scratch supports vocabulary development, an important skill especially for English language learners and special education students. The metaphor of following a mathematical or scientific procedure will help students to realize the importance of sequential thinking. With so many ways to connect Scratch with the curriculum, you might have to change the name from Scratch Day to Scratch Week!
Students love to have their turn teaching, so give them the chance. Celebrate Scratch when the sun goes down by hosting a family fun event. This is an excellent opportunity for your parents to visit the library to realize the 21st century learning skills their children are developing. Student assistants can circulate among the parents, offering them guidance, as others lead lessons. The eye-catching visuals, step-by-step instructions, and mini-quizzes make Coding in Scratch: Games Workbook an excellent reference for beginners. More advanced users will find Coding Games in Scratch full of neat tricks and challenges. DK coding books are useful as reference resources, as well as the basis for lessons and full units.
No computer? No problem! Get your students up and moving by transforming your library into a real-life stage. Make enlarged, laminated copies of text blocks that students can combine to create scripts. Students challenge each other to follow the scripts as they walk, hop, and dance through the book stacks. Their legs can get some exercise, instead of their fingers for a change!
Once your students are familiar with the Scratch environment, they can advance to applying computer programming into the third dimension. Imagine a student-created game of Operation using their favorite cartoon characters and Makey Makey, or programming robots such as Lego WeDo and the more advanced Mindstorms, the Finch robot that is tethered to a computer, and the Hummingbird robotics kit that can transform trash into treasure. These activities provide opportunities for students to experiment with robotics on various ability levels.
Break down the walls and celebrate Scratch Day beyond the library. Play and review games developed and shared by other students in the gallery. Discuss game design with other classes through social media; Skype, Google Hangouts, and Twitter offer students experiences for authentic feedback. Invite a local computer programmer, or connect with one online, so that your students can make meaningful connections between what they are learning and possible future careers.
Let the Scratch Day celebrations begin!