Published: September 2, 2013
Ten years ago, a computer programming language called Scratch emerged from the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Using colorful stackable icons to represent the sequencing and logic of computer code, Scratch was designed to make programming easy for children 8 and older. Today the free program is used in more than 150 countries and thousands of schools, with more than 1,500 animations and games uploaded to the online Scratch community each day. Even third and fourth graders call themselves coders.
But who says that 8 is the youngest you can teach children how to program? Now there is Scratch Jr. for children still learning to read and tie their shoes.
Designed for children in kindergarten through second grade, Scratch Jr. is not yet available to the public, though its founders are preparing for an iPad version in 2014. This school year, they are evaluating how it works in a handful of classrooms in Massachusetts. The project is led by Marina Umaschi Bers, a professor in the department of child development at Tufts University, and Mitchel Resnick, Scratch’s founder at the M.I.T. Media Lab.