Promoting Creative Learning Through Scratch | MIT J-WEL

You are here

Promoting Creative Learning Through Scratch

Scratch Day Globe

In the 21st century, the use of digital technologies is nearly ubiquitous among young people who can access them. Yet, though children regularly interact with these technologies, very few know how to create with them. Scratch, a free and accessible visual programming language and online community, is challenging that by allowing kids to design and program their own animations, stories, games, and even music. Scratch was invented by Professor Mitch Resnick and his team at the MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group, who are important members of the community and our pK-12 Collaborative. 

Children and adolescents can program in Scratch by joining its graphical programming blocks together like Legos, allowing kids to tinker with the code easily. The blocks have different shapes and connectors that make syntactic sense. For example, control structures such as “repeat” are C-shaped, indicating that other blocks belong inside them.


The theory behind Scratch

Many of Scratch’s functionalities were designed based on Seymour Papert’s principles for a good programming language: “low floors,” meaning it is easy to start using the language; a “high ceiling,” meaning that people’s projects can become increasingly complex as they gain greater proficiency with the language. Additionally, languages should incorporate “wide-walls” that support diverse types of projects, making the language appealing to a wide range of users. “Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century,” explains the Scratch team. Using Scratch also helps kids to learn computational thinking, which was identified as one of J-WEL’s Pk-12 Collaborative’s priorities during the March 2018 J-WEL Week.

Natalie Rusk, co-creator of Scratch, says that children (and adults) are more motivated to work on projects that are personally meaningful to them: "It's by constructing something that you really start to think about your own ideas, and reflect on them. Kids try making something and see 'Does that work or not?' Then they fix it and get feedback from others. It's by creating something that they care about that motivates them to problem solve and learn.” Both the 8-year-old boy who tells stories about aliens and the 16-year-old girl who wants to create her own racing game can do so using Scratch. Users can personalize their projects even more with their own videos, photos, and audio recordings.


What is Scratch Day?

Every May on Scratch Day, children, adolescents, and adults come together in-person for organized events in schools, libraries, and homes to “meet, share, and learn” from each other. On Scratch Day 2017, the platform celebrated its 10-year anniversary—over 1000 events were organized globally.  

Scratch Day 2018 will take place on May 12. As of April 30, 2018, over 450 Scratch Day community events had been registered worldwide, including at MIT. 


 Find out how to host a Scratch Day event in your community.