Integrating Scratch Jr. into our Science Unit
Grade 1 students studying patterns in the sky demonstrated their understanding of how the sun appears to move throughout the day using Scratch Jr. This simple project was a great introduction to Scratch Jr. that aligned with our science curriculum and allowed students to demonstrate their learning in a novel way. The idea was adapted from a Scratch Jr. activity posted on their website titled Can I Make the Sun Set? Check out all of the great Scratch Jr. activities on their website.
Day 1 – Intro to Scratch Jr.
Our students had not previously used Scratch Jr., so we began with a basic introduction and a coding challenge to help them gain command of the movement blocks as follows:
- Create a new project
- Change the background to “Park”
- Using your finger, move the Scratch Cat “sprite” to the first stepping stone on the Park background (lower left)
- Using movement blocks, move the Scratch Cat along the stone pathway up to the park bench. NOTE: Stress the accuracy here of staying on the path. The goal is to have students practice moving in a zig zag pattern to move up and across to simulate moving at an angle.
- Tips: Be sure you monitor that kids do NOT touch the Scratch Cat after it is moved the very first time to the starting stone step. To reset the sprite to the starting point, show students to press the blue circle at top of their screen.
Day 2 – Creating the Sun’s Pattern
Activate prior knowledge about the sun’s pattern: Ask students to show with their hands how the sun appears to move and when it appears highest in the sky. Be sure kids understand the sun moves in a semi-circle, not straight up in the morning and straight across during the day before going straight down in the late afternoon. This is important to clarify before they begin coding because the goal is for students to mimic that pattern correctly which will require them to code a zig-zag pattern since Scratch only allows movement in straight lines.
It can be helpful to do a short “unplugged” activity to demonstrate this for students. The teacher acts as the programmer and a student acts as the sprite. Move the student from one corner of the room or rug to the opposite corner (i.e, bottom right to top left) by giving instructions like “move forward 1, move right 1” and repeat that pattern. Print & use these great printable blocks images from the folks at Scratch Jr.
Begin coding the Sun Pattern:
- Create a new project
- Allow students to choose their own background provided it is an outdoors scene
- Remove the Scratch cat sprite
- Add the Sun sprite
- Position the Sun sprite at the horizon line on the left side of the screen
- Use movement blocks to move the sun up and over (gradually) so that it reaches it’s highest point in the middle of the screen then begins to move down and over.
- When the sun reaches it’s lowest point on the horizon, use the purple disappear block to make the sun disappear from the screen.