For the past two weeks we've been lucky to have two teachers from Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland in residence with us. Over the next week we'll be sharing posts on their reflections, experiments, and ideas they want to take back to school with them.
Another area of focus during this residency has been to explore options for creative computer programming curriculum for 8th graders. With the big push in education around coding and Computer Science, there are an overwhelming amount of options for softwares/languages/kits for young people. Last year we went with using the Hummingbird Microcontrollers with Scratch, and we did an adaptation of the Robot Petting Zoo, This was an incredibly awesome and successful long term project as the physical programming was really engaging and allowed opportunities to manipulate tactile materials/tools (cardboard, wood, hot glue, paint, drills, saws etc) within the context of a programming class.
Using the hummingbirds with scratch to design and build amazing cardboard robots provided students with a foundation of understanding of inputs: a variety of sensors, and outputs: servo and 360 motors, LED’s, sound and the concept of a “user experience”.
To build on a second year curriculum, I had been considering using the ATTiny’s with the Scratch Tiny AVR Programmer and doing some 21st C notebooking work. I love Jeannie Huffman’s work and her astute philosophy on using non-proprietary materials. However, seeing as the 7th graders had just dipped into using Scratch last year, it seemed wise to stay with Scratch to allow them to complexify their Computational thinking in that same format.
Lo and behold! The incredible folks (Nicole and Ryan) in the Tinkering Studio have been tinkering with using an Arduino Uno, Scratch X with paper circuits!
It was so exciting (almost magical) to be able to observe and engage with them during the development of this idea. And since it worked so well...I feel this is the perfect next step for the 8th grade students to explore! Some of our students are already familiar with arduinos and it would be a great next step to programming out of the “kit”. What I am now working on is developing an experimental 12 week/4 hours a week/8th grade curriculum where students will take toys apart, harvest and identify components from the toy, and then attempt to create original artworks that are visual and/or audio based using both the up-cycled and new components that will be programmed using ScratchX and the Arduino Uno. That would be the in between step before stepping into using the Spark Fun tiny programmer with Ardunio language to solder an ATTiny85 into their work to be able to be more affordable, sellable and free of the large expensive board!