ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

SCRATCH Camp introduces computer coding to middle schoolers

By SHANNON GEISENsgeisen@parkrapidsenterprise.com The U.S. Department of Labor projects that, by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings. Yet U.S. universities are expected to produce only enough qualified graduates to fi...

SCRATCH camp
Kamryn Etter, Darrel Etter, Louisa Etter, Shihara Fernando and Maeve Bolton registered for SCRATCH Camp this month, offered through Park Rapids Community Education. They ranged in age from seventh grade to fourth grade. (Shannon Geisen / Enterprise)

By SHANNON GEISEN
sgeisen@parkrapidsenterprise.com

The U.S. Department of Labor projects that, by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings.
Yet U.S. universities are expected to produce only enough qualified graduates to fill 29 percent of these jobs, according to www.girls whocode.org.
A handful of Century Middle School students are getting a jumpstart on their computing skills – and potential career – through a community education class called SCRATCH Camp.
SCRATCH is a free computer programming language tool and online community that teaches kids how to create their own interactive stories, games, music, art and animations.
It was developed at the MIT Media Lab to enable kids to be creative with computers.
Five middle school students signed up for this month’s course, taught by Laurie Conzemius.
Conzemius works as the high school media specialist and a K-12 curriculum integration specialist.
Typically, five to 10 students enrolled in the two previous SCRATCH Camps, she said.
“Computer programming is the language that computers use,“ Conzemius explains to the budding computer scientists. “It’s called coding.”
Over the course of three sessions, SCRATCH Camp initiates are introduced to basic coding concepts through fun games and puzzles.
By working with “scripts,” they maneuver a “sprite” across a blank stage, for example.
“You have to be really specific, really detailed to tell computers what to do,” says Conzemius.
Coding develops logical, sequential thinking and math skills, she said.
As students progress, SCRATCH becomes increasingly more complex.
“It can be such an independent learning program,” said Conzemius. “One child can be making a game, while another child works with animation.”
Student-made projects on SCRATCH can be shared with others around the world.
To date, about 7.7 million projects are available through this online creative learning community. SCRATCH members can get feedback, work collaboratively and learn from other members of all backgrounds, ages and interests.
While SCRATCH was designed primarily for 8- to 16-year-olds, it is also used by people of all ages.
“One of the things I love most about it, is it’s all online,” said Conzemius. “It used to be a program that had to be installed on every computer. Now every child an use it when they get home.”
Fourth grader Shihara Fernando said, “This is my first time, but I’m really having fun with it.”
She’s still deciding whether or not she wants to be a computer scientist when she grows up.
Computers are found in nearly every aspect of our lives, said Conzemius, yet we often forget to delve inside a computer and learn how it works.
She plans to continue SCRATCH Camp to fourth through eighth graders.
For more information about the SCRATCH program, visit scratch.mit.edu.

 

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
What To Read Next
Fundraising is underway to move the giant ball of twine from the Highland, Wisconsin, home of creator James Frank Kotera, who died last month at age 75, 44 years after starting the big ball.
Mike Clemens, a farmer from Wimbledon, North Dakota, was literally (and figuratively) “blown away,” when his equipment shed collapsed under a snow load.