Happy Belated Scratch Day

I woke up this morning to find that I’d missed Scratch Day. I’m not too worried by this, as every year I have a whole pile of Scratch Days at work, and I love all of them. However, I thought that it was worth jotting down one reason why I love Scratch so much. So, here is my tribute to Scratch.

Is it a pig? Is it a duck?

This morning my daughter and I worked on her fine motor skills. Of course she didn’t know that we were doing that, she thought we were playing with plasticine, but I knew that there was a good reason for us to devote an hour to building snails, aliens, ice-creams and goat/wolves. And while I tinkered with a plasticine pig, it struck me that this is what’s so great about Scratch. You can’t fail at playing with plasticine. My pig may have looked more like a duck, but I didn’t fail at it. It was just not quite what I expected. I’m sure if I made a plasticine pig again I would do it better. But the point is that at the end of the process I had a model.

It’s much the same when you play with Scratch. You always end up with something. It might not be exactly what you expected, but you will end up with a program that does something. This is thanks to the absence of any possibility of a syntax error in Scratch. While programming generally forces you to focus on the tiniest little bits of syntax, Scratch allows you to focus on the big ideas of programming and to seriously play. There’s nothing more frustrating than not understanding why the 10 lines of javascript that you’ve just copied (as far as you can tell) doesn’t do anything. If it did something at least you’d know you were getting somewhere. Scratch always does something and this is why it’s great.

At the end of our plasticine session my daughter had improved her fine motor skills, though she wasn’t aware of that. She’d just had some fun. Likewise with Scratch, at the end of a unit my students have improved their understanding of sequencing, variables, iteration, events and conditionals. They’ve also developed their logical thinking and problem solving skills, though they think they’ve made Penguin Soccer.

Our Snails

There are many more reasons why Scratch is great, but there are also many more blogs out there detailing them. I just wanted to add my voice to the many out there saying “Happy Scratch Day”.


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