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Creations from Scratch

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A while back, I asked for examples of libraries providing training on programming languages. I recently found out that the Independence (KS) Public Library (winner of the Best Small Library in America award in 2012) is going to be offering a Scratch programming class this spring.  Scratch is a programming language developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. The program makes it easy to create interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art -- and to share those creations on the web.

The Independence Public Library’s Scratch Club will consist of 6 sessions from January 8 through February 12 for kids ages 8-12. The library will be using their computer lab, which has 8 computers. The club is for kids who are new to Scratch as well as those who already have some experience. This is the library’s first time offering a Scratch class. Blinn Sheffield will be teaching the class. He has been the children's librarian at the Independence Public Library  for 7 years. He has a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Louisiana State University.    

The Independence Public Library is emphasizing STEAM programming (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) this year. Blinn came across the Scratch Club idea on the PUBYAC listserv for children's librarians. Sherry Knight, with the Euless (TX) Public Library posted about a successful Scratch club they had run.  In addition to being a great fit for his library's emphasis, Scratch appealed to Blinn personally. He says,

“When I was a kid I learned how to program my Commodore 64 in BASIC, which was great for developing creativity and logical thinking. Nobody learns BASIC anymore, so I was excited to see a programming language developed especially for kids. Scratch lets kids do cool things, like make games and animations, but they need some guidance to get started.”    

There are no required materials for the class. They will be using the book Super Scratch Programming Adventure!, which was published in 2012 by the LEAD Project. The group will complete a chapter a week. Each chapter has a different project for kids to make. The first chapter introduces Scratch, but after that kids get to start making games right away. There is an accompanying website at nostarch.com/scratch, which has additional characters ("sprites") to download that can be used in the book's projects.  Near the end of the class, students will be encouraged to share a project they have created on the Scratch website.

Not only is this a great example of innovative programming, but it's also an example of how powerful it is to share what we are doing. A listserv post by a librarian in Texas sparked an idea that is being implemented in a community in Kansas. Thanks, Blinn, for sharing your story with us today!

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