Game Animation Programming in STEM Class – Beginning in 1st Grade

This year, our 1st grade STEM students, at Allendale Columbia School, have been developing their critical thinking and problem-solving skills with programming floor robots to navigate a tournament field mat, complete with obstacles and constraints, with strategizing, testing, re-testing, and documenting their programming. Building on the success of this real world, STEM learning experience, we decided to move on to teaching game animation programming using the newly released, Ipad app, ScratchJr.

This new app encourages very young children to program their own interactive games and stories using graphical programming blocks. It is a collaborative effort between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lifelong Kindergarten Research Group, the Tufts University’s Developmental Technologies Team, and the technology startup, Playful Invention Company. ScratchJr was inspired by the popular Scratch programming language our 4th grade STEM students have become quite proficient at.

Tufts University professor, Marina Umaschi Bers, has stated that, “As young children code with ScratchJr, they develop design and problem-solving skills that are foundational for later academic success, and by using math and language in a meaningful context, they develop early-childhood numeracy and literacy.”

Our young STEM students are learning programming concepts for adding and changing backgrounds and characters, transmitting and receiving information from one character to another for triggering actions, creating and modifying characters in the paint editor with making their characters come to life, along with learning the differences between programming repeat and forever loops, and so on…

Equally exciting, our 4th grade STEM students, experienced in Scratch programming (for older children), will be our “Visiting Guest Experts” for field-testing the 1st grade final programming projects!

As the program developers at MIT like to say, “Children don’t just learn to code, they code to learn!”