Google's CS First computer science club materials are great places to get started with coding for students in grade 4 and up. Pythonroom.com is a good interactive website to learn the basics of python coding.
Choose from one of the following five projects from Google's CS First or pythonroom.com:
Here are some interesting and fun program ideas to challenge your Scratch programming skills:
Write a program that asks the player to guess a number between 1 and 20. After each guess, tell the player if the guess is correct, too high or too low.
Write a program that tests the player’s knowledge of multiplication, up to 10 times 10. Have it ask them 10 questions. Make it so that every time the game is played, the questions are different. Tell the player at the end how many questions she got right.
Write a program in Scratch in which a sprite draws a, square, equilateral triangle and a circle.
Both of these stories are neat, but what they lack are pictures and animation! That's where the fun of Scratch comes in. Students will write their own short adventure stories (with choices) and provide pictures or animations.
Scratch is a great language for having characters have conversations. There are two basic methods, (1) using "wait" blocks and (2) using "broadcast" and "receive" blocks.
Each of these starter Scratch projects may be remixed to practise these techniques.
Before starting their original Choose Your Own Adventure stories, students will first complete a basic storyboard.
To get started in Scratch, here is a basic five page choose your own adventure story program. Remix this program, add your own story, and consider adding more choices with more pages. Look carefully at the scripts on the buttons to see how to control the story flow. Use the duplicate feature in Scratch to create new buttons - the scripts from the old buttons will be copied over, and will only need to be updated.
Teaching students that they must respect international copyright laws is an important part of any lesson I teach where students will be using images and videos they find on the internet. Here is a great blog post which comments on the legal issues involved, as well at lists several great sources of pictures that are in the public domain.
We need to remember that although students may use almost any
image for educational purposes, if projects containing those images are
then posted on-line, a definite grey-area is entered. Also, outside of the educational setting, in copyright laws must be respected, and creating good habits that will carry on into a students' adult life in the workforce is important.
Students who are preparing projects for this year's PYP expo will be making Electric Quiz Boards in STEM class. The basic idea is to create a set of questions and answers, and a board to display them on, and when the user connects a question with an answer, if the answer is correct, an LED will light up to indicate the answer is correct.
Here are some good instructions of how to build an Electric Quiz Board:
In the fall, we had two field trips to the Pinhey Sands Dunes: one to learn from the scientist of Biodiversity Conservancy International about this unique and remarkable habitat found right within the city limits in Ottawa, and secondly to participate in the restoration of the dunes themselves.
Here are some videos from Biodiversity Conservancy International links that focus of the Pinhey Sand Dunes, their restoration, flora and fauna.
There are some plants and insects (and even trees, bushes and probably animals) that are thriving in Ottawa but that are not native to this region, and so have no natural predators. In Morrison Park, and the St Paul High School field, I have seen:
Many of our students are very, very, very interested in explosions, so we will be tinkering with film canister rockets. Film canisters are not very common these days -- I had to explain what they were the first time I mentioned them to my students -- but I was able to collect many from a friendly photo developing store.
Hopscotch is a great programming environment available for iPads. It is a lot like Scratch, but designed for the touch screen interface.
Here is a YouTube video that provides step by step instructions to make a "Tapper Game" - a game where you are trying to tap an object as much as possible to get points. These instructions give the basic ideas and concepts, you will need to provide the game ideas!
The grade 3 - 4 class has been studying energy: how we use it, how it is made, and how we can reduce our dependency. Here is a great explanation of a hands on activity to make a real battery from household materials:
Apparently, these batteries can be a bit finicky. We'll try our luck in class and see how it goes!
Update: We did successfully make the batteries in class, and were able to measure voltages of about 0.9 V per lemon. However, this was not enough to light up an LED, especially since more current was also needed. Later, by attaching three lemons in series, and making three sets like this, then attaching these three sets of three lemons in parallel, we could finally get enough current and voltage to make an LED light dimly.
To reinforce what has been learned about the computer science concept of variables through exposure in previous programming exercises, students in grades 5 and 6 are creating their own Mad Libs program in Scratch, using variables to hold the nouns, verbs and adjectives. Here is a simple prgram I wrote, if you would like to see an example:
Students have started making inventive rooms, space stations and novel tin foil buttons to use as user interfaces connected to MaKey MaKeys, then connected with Scratch programs to give the creations special sound and other effects.
I am very excited about the latest acquisition for our PYP STEM lab -- MaKey MaKeys from SparkFun!
What is the MaKey MaKey? It is marketed as an invention kit for everyone, and practically speaking it is a gadget that connects to your computer that allows to you make original and creative user interfaces for programs. Say, for example, you'd rather tap a banana instead of using your space bar. Simple with a MaKey MaKey! Really, it's probably best to just watch one in action.
Here's a great introduction to the MaKey MaKey, that starts with a cool video:
We use electricity every day, but what do we really know and understand about it? To start us off on our explorations into electricity, electronics and creating with electronics, we will do some background research. Here's a great website to get us started:
Why is salt put on roads and sidewalks in the winter? Could something else be used instead? The Grade 1/2 class did some experiments to see what common kitchen ingredients melted ice the best. Winners: salt, baking soda, sugar. Losers: flour, cocoa, corn startch.
The next time we meet we will finish our experiments on salt water and density.
The next Caribout Math Contest is coming up quickly, and this time the interactive math game will be Sokoban. This game was originally invited in Japan in 1980, and the word "sokoban" means "warehouse keeper" in Japanese. The object of the game is to push large boxes to designated spots in the warehouse. Boxes can only be pushed, not pulled, and they are so heavy only one can be pushed at a time. Boxes are so big they cannot be climbed over. This has some consequences during game play, such as if a box if ever pushed into a corner, there is no way to get it out again.
The first level of the game presented for practice on the Caribou website is quite tricky for beginners, so here are some other recommended resources:
Sokoban Online Start with the first lesson that can be found here. This site asks you to create an account, but it is not necessary.
The students in Mme Brinda's class have been doing wonderful work creating their own virtual pets in Scratch. Lots of creativity and applying the use of advanced Scratch concepts like broadcasting messages between Sprites.
With the Rube Goldberg Fair behind us, we have started a new focus on computer programming using Scratch. Grade 1-2 students made programs to make Sorites dance, Grade 3-4 students have been making animations of the letters of their names and Grade 5-6 students have created a Pong Game. Great work by all!