Monday, October 24, 2022

Code You Can Touch with Scratch and Makey Makey

 Fall is a perfect time to introduce a Code You Can Touch project with a harvest theme. This project was originally created when two fifth grade teachers from our Create Make Learn community asked if I could help them introduce coding using Scratch.   The results was a fun Fall display that started in their classroom during the the Fall School Open House event and then became part of a Champlain Valley Maker Faire event. 

I recently organized the resources so they could be used to introduce a Code You Can Touch unit using the most recent version of Scratch.  Here are the slides that outline the approach I would take to introduce computational thinking to a group of students using Scratch and Makey Makey. 


During this process, the students will experience the principles of computation

  • Decomposition: Breaking down data, processes, or problems into smaller, manageable parts
  • Pattern Recognition: Observing patterns, trends, and regularities in data
  • Abstraction: Identifying the general principles that generate these patterns
  • Algorithm Design: Developing the step by step instructions for solving this and similar problems
The process was divided into three parts.

Part 1: Unplugged Activity

To get started you will want to

Print out the following  cards  ahead of time. 

My first time trying this activity, I organized students in groups of 10 and passed out cards 3 - 12 to each group. Assign one person to be the CODER and the rest of the students to be a piece of code.

Ask the coder to gather ‘pieces of code’ and sequence them in order so that a musical scale is played when the green flag is lowered (clicked).

Have students simulate 'running the code' or going through the sequence of commands. The coder touches the student with the green flag to 'start' the program.


For the next round

Print out cards 13 - 1and cut them in half. Give a group of a dozen students one of those commands to hold.

Students with the code library cards will need to pair up one Play Note card with one Event card during this challenge.

The pair of students should hold their cards so they are touching. Each pair of students should spread around the room.

Once the coder has completed the challenge, make sure to try the algorithm by having the teacher or another student ‘test’ the program by clicking on each event to play a musical scale.

Part 2: Introduce block coding with SCRATCH

Scratch was developed at MIT Media Lab to teach even our youngest learners to create with code/

Load this Piano Program created with SCRATCH

Press the green flag


Load this Piano Program created with SCRATCH

Play the piano using your keyboard keys (c,d,e,f,g,a,b, space key

I would suggest to have students work in pairs

One student loads the SEQUENCE Program on their computer and one loads the EVENTS program. 

Each can make some changes to the code and Explain the changes to your partner. 

If you'd like to create this algorithm from Scratch you will fiorst need to add the MUSIC extension to SCRATCH.

Once you have added the MUSIC extension you will see new code blocks available.

Part 3: Introduce physical computing using Makey Makey

I like to start with this INSPIRATION or phenomena video.

Then bring in some fun Fall materials to play with along with your Makey Makey

Pass out a Makey Makey to each group of students

Students setup their

own Musical Invention 

Explore Play Invent

What will your students create with Code They Can Touch?

 Inspiration from Mallets Bay Elementary School students

BLOG Post -  (short video) 
and  (Coding, Prototype Video)

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Processing Loss with Meaningful Making

You may have noticed the big gap between March and October in post to this blog. I'm gearing up with a few blog posts, but wanted to share why the long absence from our Create Make Learn community. 

At the beginning of March, my dad went into hospice. I flew back to Vermont, and was able to join my sisters  journeying with our dad during this phase of life.  He died March 25th.  His funeral was held April 2, 2022

One month later, my mom had a sudden hemorrhagic stroke. She held on long enough for my 4 sisters and I to be with her when she died on May 3, 2022  (a month after my dad's funeral).  We spent the next couple month trying to grasp the sudden loss of both our parents and planning mom's celebration of life for July 31, 2022

I cancelled all my professional commitments, including Create Make Learn Summer Institute.
It would have been our 10th anniversary. 

Less than two years prior I had my first experience processing loss of a family member through making when my dear 26 year old niece lost a brief but furious fight with cancer. 

During the past few months processing the loss of my parents, I did not shy away from creating and making -- and thought a lot about how meaningful making can contribute to both processing loss and finding joy in challenging times. 

In preparing for my dad's funeral, I created two keychains.  Most of my dad's career has been in auto sales. Until weeks before he died, he was actively involved in managing his GMC dealership -  deLaBruere's Auto Sales and showed up with lunch for the staff every Thursday.  So I created two renditions of a keychain that we gave out at his funeral.  One version was for those who bought a car from my dad and the other was for anyone else.  I used a medium maple plywood  and my GlowForge to make about 100 of each. 

It was not about the product, but the process of making these that was particularly meaningful to me during this time of saying goodbye to a man who I attribute to my commitment to project based learning.     My dad loved to be engaged in a project.  It's how he lived his life.  When one project finished, he quickly became engaged in a new project.  We still laugh about the year that he decided his project was going to be to MOVE THE POND.  So whenever I take on a project that others don't understand  - I often answer - "I'm not sure why, but it just seemed to be a "move the pond' project. 

A very dear cousin of ours mentored us through the journey of my dad's final days. We were less than month into the grieving process when we got the call from the hospital that my mom had arrived at the ER after suffering a major hemorrhagic stroke. They were born a month apart and both died at 82, a month apart. 

While planning my mom's celebration of life, I knew I would make something, but it took me a little longer to decide what to make.   Mom loved butterflies and  they became a prominent theme in the celebration we were planning. My sister planned a release of 82 monarch butterflies.   I found a beautiful 3D butterfly design on ETSY and created a table decoration that held a prayer card and a memory seed packet.   Even though I did not design it myself,  I found the process of modifying it and creating 100 table decoration a very meaningful experience and a way to add a piece that was uniquely my contribution to the day's event.  I used my Cricut Maker to prototype, but ended up using my Glowforge laser cutter to cut a batch of 100 purple ones and 100 white ones.  With a little dab of glue I was able to add jeweled stickers for a final touch. 

Along with the butterfly envelopes, I also created a digital creation that we used to kick off storytelling during mom's celebration of life.  For this project I used Canva Video and WeVideo., It was my first time using Canva's video tool and I enjoyed learning some tips and tricks end up with a 5 minute media piece that celebrated so many parts of who mom was to so many. 

It's been almost 3 months since mom's celebration of life, and I'm just starting to move back into  professional projects.  I am even more committed to the concept that hands on meaningful making needs to be part of our journey in life.   And as John Dewey has taught us -  Education is LIFE (not just preparation for life) - so let's infuse it with meaningful making.