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Kids Designing for Kids

We've just begun a project to get groups of kids together from two different schools and we're using Scratch to make the connection. One group of students is from a magnet school in Hamden, CT. They recently met with a group of kids in North Haven, CT who attend a school for children with special needs. The magnet school kids will be learning how to program with Scratch in order to design games for the North Haven kids.


The first meeting of the two groups was an overwhelming success! The magnet school kids took a field trip to visit the classroom in North Haven. They had a chance to tour the building and we talked about the similarities and differences between the two schools. When they visited the classroom, both groups of students loved sharing ideas for games. The teachers circulated through the room to help the groups identify learning objectives as well.


I hope to post again soon and update the community on our progress, including some of the student projects. Tips or advice appreciated!

 

 

Comments
Member
What great ideas! I run two technology clubs - one for an elementary school and one at our junior high. I am looking into doing something like this with the junior high group. Thanks so much for sharing! 
Member
 Thanks Terri!

We're hoping to start again in January and get more kids involved across more schools.  I'd love to follow your progress, so be sure to post it as a story when you get started.  Thanks again.

Eric
Member

 Hi Eric,

thanks for sharing such a great initiative.

What kind of special-needs-like are your students ?

And what kind of contribution do they give to the project ? Do they program too or just give inspiration and ideas to the other team of peer students ?

 

Thanks again and hope to hearing back from you.

 

Roberto.

Member

 Hi Roberto, thanks for the questions.  This group of students who worked on the project had a variety of developmental disabilities including autism.  This time around, the contribution was ideas and feedback.  Of course, they did provide inspiration as well, though I hadn't thought of that before. Now that I've gone through this once, I definitely have some ideas for including some coding experiences into the project for all the kids.  Scratch 2.0 will make sharing the code behind the games even easier.

 

As a result of the games that were created, other students at Village School have expressed interest in making their own games.  I've been working with one young man a couple times a month to create his own Sonic game.  He can clearly articulate his ideas for what he wants the game to do (even in computational terms - "once Sonic is at level 10, then the bad guy appears"), and we work out the code together, but honestly it's challenging for him to create a complicated script.  Which isn't to say I don't love working on the game with him, he's definitely challenged to think in ways he hasn't before and eventually he'll be able to code anything sequential, maybe even loops.  Right now though, other logic and variables are a tricky concept for anyone and games rely heavily on them.  I'm happy to see where it goes though.

 

If you have any  thoughts, Roberto, I'd love to hear them. And thanks again for the questions and for reading about the project.

 

Eric

Member

 Eric, thanks for getting back.

I just had one experience in a field pretty similar to yours, that's why I turned my attention to your post.

I made a small lab for programming in a Children's Hospital where kids were hospitalized for serious illnesses. I just came there with lots of ideas but they turned me upside down :))

Sometimes they were too tired and sometimes my proposals were just too difficult.

An option for me was (and possibly for you as well) to get inspiration from the hospitalized children to invent some story, animation, game, drawings etc. and then turn to school children to implement projects on Scratch. This is what I'm actually working on.

If you think this could suit some of your needs I'd be happy to share thought further.

Hope this helps anyway.

 

Roberto

 

 

Member

That sounds like a great idea.  I imagine you see kids come and go due to the nature of your setting - so I assmume project timelines have to be shorter than what I can do. Please share your ideas, I'm curious.  

Member

You got it, Eric. Children in wards frequently come and go, and we didn't cope with this issue really well at that time. The projects should be kept really simple, rapidly attractive and soon to be completed. The health conditions of the kids were bad some times, you know.

There were no Scratch 2.0 available back then, and this was another issue. If I could repeat the whole thing now, it might be much better.

By now, I'm interested in connecting disadvantaged or very young students to more experts ones, and giving both groups the chance to exchange ideas and collaborate.

It could be a good option if you point me to projects made by your SN students, and I'll try to pass them on to my students, inviting them to remix and share again.

Cheers,

Roberto.

 

Member

Here's a link to the games that we made last school year: scratch.mit.edu/users/acesSchools/

Most of the games on this page were made by the magnet school kids.  The Sonic game is a work in progress that I'm working on with one of the students at Village School.

Perhaps some of the children you work with would be more interested in designing games if they saw it as a service to others.  I could pass along some ideas to you and you could see if any of your kids want to embark on a making a short project for our Village students.  We could also connect them with our magnet school kids to assist as experts.  

We calculated that games on the acesSchool page took between 20 to 30 hours for the students to complete.  This took into account some initial work sessions getting familiar with the Scratch programming environment and working on mini-projects unrelated to the final game. 

 

Member
That could be a good goal for my students. We're a little bit forced by an international programming project we're going to start. I still don't know the details we'll be working on. But it's great if you pass along to me some of the ideas you have. Thanks
Member

 

One of the design teams demonstrating their game.  The girl in the middle is the one who gave the moving speech at the end of the celebration.

 

Looking under the hood.

 

One of the teams explains their game to the kids and adults in the room. 

Member

I enthusiastically write today to share about the culmination of our project.  Last Friday, April 19th, the magnet school kids visited Village School for the world premiere of their video games.

We set up the celebration in the computer lab where we had each station set up with one team's game, although all the games were available to play from the desktop.  The students arrived and we began by having the magnet kids show the Village kids how to play the game.  Then everybody just played for a bit while teachers and administrators walked around and chatted with all the students.  Once everyone had a chance to try a few games, we had the teams of students go to the whiteboard one at a time and demonstrate how to play their games and explain the code behind it.  A common theme from all the teams was "it takes a lot of work to make a computer program!"

The highlight of the day came at the end when our principal gave some closing remarks.  One of the Village students, a fourth grade girl, raised her hand and asked to say something.  She came to the front of the room and said that she wanted to to thank the magent school for making the games.  She also thanked the principals for letting the kids come to her school.  It was a very emotional thank you and there were many tears in the audience.

To sum it up, this was a great experience.  Looking forward, we're planning to do it again next year and possibly expand it to more kids and spend more time.  This year, the kids largely learned to program as they designed their games, learning concepts as they encountered certain problems.  While I kind of like that way of doing it with a small group, I don't think it would be realistic for a larger one.  Anybody have any thoughts on that?

There's also talk of having our sister schools, another magnet and another self-contained school, implement this model.  I really hope it works out - it really brought a lot of joy to all of us and we'd love to share that. 

Member

 I recently created a Scratch account to upload the projects.  They're still a work in progress, but coming along nicely.

scratch.mit.edu/users/acesSchools

 

 

Member

Eric I am new to scratch myself and love it. I think the idea of joining two schools through an online project is a great idea. I noticed that you talked about the teams of students creating the games. This is so amazing because the age difference of the students working together. It is not something I see done often in schools in my area. I have seen older students beign tutors or mentors. I think it would be neat for the North Haven kids to send pictures of themselves or a pet perhaps to be used in the game. This would give them more of a connection to the game. What kid does not dream of being a character in a game! I cannot wait to hear more about how the project is going. Best of Luck.

Meagan Leas

Member

 Hi Meagan,

I really like the idea of having the kids send pictures to be included into the games - I'll have to propose it to the student designers, but I'm sure they'll love the idea.  

Regarding having the middle schoolers working as a team with a third graders, I'm having mixed results but most of the teams are working well together.  That's how partnerships go, though, so I'm happy with the arrangement.   When we introduce a concept, I ask the younger kids to answer first and then the older ones respond after.  As I type this, I'm realizing I could try this a little differently - more like a think, pair, share.

So, general update on the games for everyone:

The kids are working very hard but it's slooooow going.  Some of the projects are too ambitious for someone new to Scratch, so we have been scaling some of them back.  Furthermore, we've had multiple snow days and a month of state testing. One girl moved away. :( Fortunately, we have a great replacement.  We have a couple Facetime sessions set-up so the kids can chat about how the games are coming along.  

We've established a deadline and scheduled another field trip for the magnet school group.  They are going to do their final presentation in the North Haven school on Friday, April 19th. There's still so much to do and it's only a moth away!  Cross your fingers for us.  :)

Member

 Hi Karen! We actually have quite a range working together on this project.  At the magnet school, two kids are working together as a team - one third grader and one middle schooler.  The students who they are developing the games for are between the grades of first and fifth.

Yesterday, we had a great time exploring the program and figuring out what Scratch can do.  I'm optimistic that they are going to come up with some great projects that the Village School students will love.  I'm going to have the Village School kids locate some images/photos that they'd like to see in their projects and send them over to the magnet school kids.  I'll keep you posted on how it's going!

Member

Awesome -- I look forward to hearing (and seeing) updates! :)

 

 

Member

Hi Eric,

Thanks for sharing your experiences! What age range are the kids?

K