Community outreach connects Brown CS students to the Providence area. For more articles on how Brown CS students inspire and lead members of the greater Providence community click here.
This year Professor Amy Greenwald, graduate students David Abel, Amy Becker, Betsy Hilliard, Michael Majzoub (seen in the photo above), and Jeff Rasley, and undergraduate Luke Camery, visited all ten Gateway to Tech classes (more than 130 6th, 7th, and 8th graders) at Nathan Bishop, and introduced them to the Scratch programming language. A handful of the students had some experience, having worked with us last year, but most were new to programming.
After about ten minutes of formal instruction, the students were free to work on their own ideas, with us wandering around the classroom giving them input and answering their questions. Mike noted, "The student projects were incredible -- ranging from cartoons to video games. I was amazed with how much they were able to do in just one class period. They were also great at helping one another out as they gained a greater understanding of the programming interface."
Even more important than what they made or learned about Scratch, however, was what they realized about themselves. Amy Becker remarked, “There seemed to be a mentality among the students that there was one right procedure...My favorite part of the experience was witnessing the transition as they went from asking me what the right way was, to exploring what they could make the program do on their own. They experienced the loss of inhibitions and fear of being wrong. It was awesome to watch a student who had been initially hesitant show me what they had figured out and take pride and ownership of their creation.”
For me, watching kids hit “run” on their first program is always a special moment. It’s exciting to see the pure joy --joy in the creativity and joy in the empowerment-- when students realize they just programmed a computer. It reminds me why I got into Computer Science in the first place.