Today I shared a three hour workshop at TechKnowledgey 2013 in Missoula on using Scratch software with K-12 students in the classroom, in after-school clubs (like Chris Simon did at Independence Elementary in Yukon, Oklahoma last year) as well as “Scratch Camps.”

My favorite things that happened during the workshop, when teachers were exploring and building in Scratch, involved an “orbital challenge.” One of the teachers wanted to make a sprite (object in Scratch) move in a circle around another sprite. She is a K-12 art and music teacher. This challenge sounds simple, but it isn’t immediately obvious how to do it. The teacher finally figured out one way to do it, and shared her project / solution online. These are the scripts she used:

Scratch Scripts to move in a circle

I posed this challenge to our entire group, and another teacher (who is a new grade 9-12 math teacher, starting her teaching career after being a civil engineer) figured out another way to do this using trigonometry. How cool is this?!

Scratch blocks to move in a circle using trigonometry

Here’s a 21 second video clip showing this Scratch solution in action.

It’s a simple Scratch project, but it’s a great example of several things:

  1. In Scratch as in other kinds of programming / problem solving, there is often more than one way to get something done.
  2. With code, often there are simpler and more elegant ways to accomplish a goal. Sometimes the ability to “see” or figure out that elegant solution comes with more knowledge and skills in a content area (like math) and sometimes it doesn’t.
  3. The mental toolkits we’ve built over the years can both constrain and direct the ways we approach problems.
  4. Simple challenges can lead to complex thinking and problem solving.
  5. Solving math problems together in Scratch (which are very concrete and purposeful) can be fun and challenging. (Gary Stager might say this is “hard fun.”
  6. )

I love Scratch and helping others both learn about Scratch and get EXCITED about sharing Scratch with students!

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