Game Jams with Scratch

Tonight was the night.  The inaugural middle school Game Jam that brought together 12 fierce, fun-loving 5th and 6th graders for four hours of game creation using Scratch.  The event kicked off at 3:00.  However, a few Game Jam participants settled down in front of a computer shortly after the school day ended at 2:35.

Game Jam schedule

Game Jam schedule

The Game Jam didn’t have much structure to it.  Participants could work in groups if they wanted.  They were just as welcome to work alone.  However, I’ve noticed that working with Scratch one rarely ever works alone.  Calls of, “I don’t know how to do X.” are answered with, “Here, let me show you.”  There wasn’t a theme to follow.  We (as in the adults in the room) were even receptive to participants working with other game design software, though everyone ended up sticking with Scratch.

The school’s resident Scratch experts were unable to attend the Game Jam because of prior commitments.  The three adults in the room (including me) could only answer the most basic questions.  Our ignorance, however, did not discourage the students when they hit a stumbling block.

Carolyn is not ignorant.  This smart cookie helps out two Game Jam participants.

Carolyn is not ignorant. This smart cookie helps out three Game Jam participants.

One reason the evening flowed so smoothly is due to the presence of a 7th grade assistant who was very familiar with Scratch.  He spent his evening bouncing from table helping students troubleshoot their creations.

I’m currently in the middle of a four-week online course through ALA called Engaging Teens with Digital Media: Creating Stories and Games.  I’m trying to process the resources and readings (which I’m starting to compile here).  I am intrigued by the intersection of game design, inquiry and research, and the iterative process.  Oh!  And let’s not forget those digital/information literacy skills that come into play.

Carolyn, the middle school librarian, and I were awarded a summer grant to explore e-textiles, Makey Makeys, the Hummingbird robotics kit, WeDos, and more.  It’s basically a super small, local Constructing Modern Knowledge (an extremely powerful experience).  We’re not just spending our summer playing with toys though.  We’re also spending time at Hack.RVA, offering school faculty and staff the opportunity to make things, and tapping into the genius of Bruce Davies, who runs the Chesterfield County Public Library’s makerspace.

I’m going to add Scratch to my list of things to master.  It should’ve been done long ago, but better late than never.

A student's Scratch game

A student’s Scratch game

I cannot wait until these kids get to the upper school.



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