Here at London CLC we are pretty big fans of Scratch and the opportunities for learning and creating that it offers to pupils, writes Caitlin McMillan, London CLC computing tutor.
Scratch was created by an MIT Media Lab research group headed by Mitchel Resnick, so we were very excited to learn more about its approaches to development and education when Resnick’s book Lifelong Kindergarten was published last year.
Renick’s basic principle is that, as children progress through education, a focus on following instructions and rules comes at the expense of what he calls ‘creative learning’, where children can ‘define their own problems rather than simply solve the ones in the textbook’.
The ideas set out in Resnick’s book really resonated with us, particularly in relation to our work with Tate Exchange.
For the second year running, London CLC are Tate Exchange associates. This means that, on 27 February, we will be running an event for 120 school children at Tate Modern, setting up workstations, creating artworks, and facilitating visits to Tate’s collections.
This year’s theme is ‘production’ and the pupils will be encouraged to think about production and consumption and how digital technologies and innovation have changed the process of designing and making. Pupils will look at how the materials and processes used in the works on display in the Tate gallery, why they have been used and how this might change the way they see the art.
Last year we decided to challenge ourselves to work a little differently when it came to Tate Exchange; we wanted to provide a learning environment separate from the normal school experience with space for experimentation and development of ideas – in other words, ‘creative learning’. Our approach mirrored that found in many reception classes – we set up workstations with different activities and then gave the pupils free choice on the day, allowing them to move between activities whenever they liked and to choose how they spent the time.
The approach worked so well last year, we’ve decided to use it again.
This free-flow model for the day aligned really well with Resnick’s key ‘lifelong kindergarten’ principles:
Each workstation provides the children with a project that they can work on: can you build a cardboard city? Can you weave a woollen sculpture? The children are learning through making and creating goals for themselves.
Allowing children to self-select activities means that they can follow their passions and their interests. Some may choose to spend the day drawing what they can see from the windows or designing a collage on the computer. Others will explore and try out all of the activities on offer. It is up to them.
Our Tate Exchange day sees children from a number of schools across London come together to experience the event. Throughout the day, they are encouraged to interact with their peers from other schools, sharing ideas and creating things together.
We aim to give children the opportunity to interact in new ways with a huge variety of physical and digital objects. Our activities are designed around allowing pupils to be playful and imaginative in their learning or, as Resnick puts it, to be ‘designing, creating, experimenting and exploring’.