As an artist, the idea of writing code is daunting, if not downright scary. So, I feel pretty safe in my creative world as a graphic designer for AETN. CMYK, typography, illustration, vectors, pixels, proof, raster, Pantone, RGB, resolution, these are the words of my language. I had always envisioned coding as a cross between some strange, alien language and Morse code. The number of programming languages is mind-boggling. But, as digital technology advances, our understanding of how to program a computer or build a better app becomes essential. And, by teaching our children how to code at a young age, we're giving them tools to think beyond using a pencil or a paintbrush. As a fundamental skill, coding empowers our youth to unleash their creativity and think digitally.
Through a grant from the Verizon Foundation, AETN and PBS KIDS have been given the opportunity to help boost coding education for Arkansas children by providing coding kits to STEM centers around the state. These kits are based on curriculum from PBS KIDS ScratchJr, a programming language that helps children ages 5-8 learn coding concepts in fun and exciting ways. It's snapping colorful programming blocks together to make characters move, dance, jump and sing. Colors and shapes: the artist in me can connect with that!
Each kit comes with PBS KIDS Playtime pads, quick start guides, curriculum, flash cards, coding games, a Dot & Dash creative robot set, a Code & Go Robot Mouse activity set, and a PBS KIDS ScratchJr Storyboard magnet set.
The storyboard magnet set helps students gain a visual understanding of how characters in each activity are to be manipulated. Students are then encouraged to create a digital version of their storyboard using the PBS KIDS ScratchJr app on the PBS KIDS Playtime pads. This activity is a great way for children to become involved in the creative process by giving them age-appropriate tools and space to imagine the characters interacting with one another.
While delivering a coding kit to the Southern Arkansas University STEM Center, I met some of the educators who will be using these kits in their classrooms. As someone who helped put these kits together, I felt like Santa Claus as I watched the excitement in their eyes, knowing the impact these kits will have in the low-income classrooms that dot much of Arkansas.
I look forward to hearing about the creative stories students make up as they use PBS KIDS ScratchJr. With such a fun and exciting program to learn, perhaps I, too, can learn to “speak code.”
Visit the AETN Early Education page for free downloads of the STEM kits' curriculum and student certificates and to check out links to more resources from PBS Learning Media and to ArkansasIDEAS' ScratchJr coding professional development materials.
Kits will be delivered to the following STEM centers:
Jamie Walters, a graphic design and education specialist, works in the AETN Marketing and Outreach Department and is proud to support the AETN PBS KIDS ScratchJr Coding grant from the Verizon Foundation.