Virtual Worlds: Writing Computer Code in the Media Lab

“Everyone in this country should learn to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.” – Steve Jobs

Baden Academy students are learning to code. Actually, they are not just learning to write computer code, they are coding to learn.

Students in 2nd grade collaboratively built Virtual Neighborhoods and programmed Angry Birds on the site.   3rd grade began movie trailers of original legends from Virtual Lands they’ve imagined, using both Google Docs and Scratch Programming. 4th grade created virtual worlds orbiting stars in our galaxy populated with unique species programmed using Alice 2.

The languages are fun to learn and the doorway though which our kids learn to become creators, not just consumers, of technology.

I encourage all parents to challenge students with technology with the rule of thumb: create more than you consume.  Links to download these free programming education free tools are below.  Angry Birds maze  Scratch Programming through MIT  Alice Programming through CMU

Free Instruction lists elementary to advanced Programming language tutorials   RobotC, Invent, Sketchup (cool Robot Virtual Worlds!)

Local Camps

@Baden Academy (specific to programming)

History of Robotics
Mon-Fri, Jun 16-20 9:30-3:00 (Grades 3-8)
Are you ready for the Google driverless car?  It is on the roads in California, Florida, Nevada and Michigan.  Spend a week exploring the history of autonomous robotics as we experiment with Lego Mindstorm sensors and programming. Learn the connections to Pittsburgh and the CMU partnership with General Motors to compete with Google. High school interns (particularly girl scout leaders) can apply as assistants.   The camp is offered in conjunction with the Girl Scouts of Western PA. Cost is $180. Limit to 22 students. Adults can attend for free.  REGISTER

 Game Design Camp
Mon-Thr, Jun 30-July 3 9:30-3:00 (Grades 5-10)
Games Design applies to every type of game – board games, card games, simulations, and interactive stories. Mornings will be focused on elements, processes and theories of game design. Afternoons will explore how to apply the concepts learned in Scratch Programming. Boy scouts can earn the Game Design merit badge by actively participating in these four days.  Learn what makes games fun and what game designers have learned about how to get people to play your game!  Limit to 22 students. Cost is $150.  REGISTER

@ Your Home

Scratch Animator Black Belt Series
Invite your kids to make projects that make a difference in the world while they earn a virtual black belt in Scratch Animation. Each belt level invites them to complete a meaningful project and to learn one or two more concepts in Scratch Programming. Online tutorials, help videos, and sample projects are provided. Certificates, encouraging online coaches, and an online portfolio are awarded to those who succeed in this quest.  Kids as young as 2nd grade have enjoyed learning this drag and drop programming language and these innovative kid-narrated tutorials. (Head fake – there are some important math concepts they also master!) You can register up to three children for the in the home lab. Cost is $45.  REGISTER

@ Penn State

Robotics (Ages 8 – 14)  


Snap, Scratch & Bots  (ages 8-14)
Coding is no longer just for kids who ‘get it’ or think they have some sort of math or programming gene.  It is a way of thinking, an approach to problem solving, and a critical skill for 21st century jobs. Encourage them to get more involved today (and join them in learning something new!).


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