This workshop is aimed towards sparking the imagination of young kids who want to be...well anything! Computer technology is everywhere and used by many different professionals, including inventors, artists, teachers, engineers, musicians, scientists and computer programmers, of course. In this 1-hour workshop designed for kids ages 6-10, they will learn how to use everyday items and the "Makey Makey" to complete an electronic circuit in order to control computer programs.
The "Makey Makey" (makeymakey.com), invented by graduate students at MIT, is a small curcuit board that connects to a computer and lets you invent your own keyboard with anything that conducts electricity. (Hence, the name "Makey Makey" as in "make" a "key" board. Clever, huh?). Use bananas to play a virtual piano or band instruments! Use PlayDoh to make a game controller for a video game! Various conductive materials will be provided to get everyone started, but kids are encouraged to bring their own. Items that conduct electricity well include fruit, green leaves, flowers, soda cans and metal bottle caps. We advise that parents attend the workshop with their children. They'll have lots of fun too!
"Hour of Code" and Beyond (ages 7-10)
Have you heard of "Hour of Code"? This global movement to get kids interested in computer programming has reached millions, mainly those in middle school or above. However, children can absolutely start learning to program at a younger age. This course is designed to introduce basic coding concepts to kids ages 7-10 at the end of 2nd grade or above (should know basic keyboarding skills and how to use a mouse) by using fun (and free) online websites.
The full course is 4 weeks long (one 1-hour session each week), separated into two 2-week modules (see below) which can be offered to kids together or separately. (*Parents will need to attend the sessions in order to create online accounts for their child at the websites mentioned below. Between each session of this course, kids will be given optional activities that will send them on more coding adventures beyond the scope of this course and be informed about additional learning resources.)
Module 1: Hour of Code
Well, it's actually 2 hours of code. Over two sessions (one 1-hour session per week), kids will be introduced to programming using the CODE.org website where they will become familiar with using drag-and-drop "code blocks" to solve puzzles and design a Flappy Bird-like game. Let the adventures begin!
Module 2: SCRATCH
This introductory module to SCRATCH also runs for two sessions with one 1-hour session per week. While not absolutely required, the experience of the Hour of Code in module 1 will help transition kids to using the popular SCRATCH program developed by MIT (freely available online at scratch.mit.edu and can also be downloaded). SCRATCH, which also uses the drag-and-drop "code blocks", is a powerful tool that kids can use to create interactive stories, animations and games. By the end of the sessions, kids will have learned how to make their own animation and a computer game. Coding concepts will be incorporated into discussions of basic game design.
Cookie Sheet Coding (ages 4-6)
Cookie sheets are good for more than just baking. You can use them to learn computer programming too! This 1-hour workshop is designed for kids ages 4-6 (parents must be present). If they are already reading (or sight reading), that's great but not necessary. Why teach programming to kids so young, and are they ready for it? Of course! Programming is simply putting together instructions step-by-step to get something done, like a recipe for baking cookies. Even though they don't know it, kids are following a "program" every day when they perform tasks in sequence (normal routines like getting ready for school) or when they must decide what to do next based on conditions (if the weather is good, then go outside to play, else play a game inside). In the same way, computer programmers have to break tasks down into simple logical steps.
In this workshop, kids will learn to create "code" through game play. They will be challenged to give instructions (using magnets on a cookie sheet) to solve a puzzle or move a game piece through a maze. Finally, they will test out their "code" interactively on the computer. While we hope the kids have fun making their first "program", a major goal for this workshop is to demonstrate to parents how such unplugged activities can help strengthen their child's logical thinking skills. Furthermore, they will be informed of additional resources (free online websites and downloadable apps) that their child can start using now and as they get older to learn how to program.