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Science At Play: Coding at Home

Post Author: Kate Saulsbery
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Sitting down in front of a computer to embark on your first coding adventure can sound like the beginning of an epic journey to some; to others it’s a terrifying leap into the unknown. I am here to tell you that it’s both. Learning to code is a lot like learning to cook. Sometimes you need the recipe. Other times you’re okay to wing it and see what happens. And sometimes you order take-out. You are going to burn things along the way, that “too much” gene might kick in and you will over season the dish, but with each new attempt you are going to be able to trust your instincts more and more. The good news is that there are lots of incredible resources out there for coders of all ages to help you write your first pieces of code. These are some of our favorite FREE coding websites and apps that will have your whole family coding together in no time. There are plenty of tutorials, and each one has online communities to keep you motivated and coming back for another serving! 

If you want to give coding a try, take a look at some of our favorite platforms for coders of all ages and interests:

 

Scratch & Scratch JR. 

Scratch was developed by MIT to teach all ages the basics of coding. It uses a simple Blockly interface to help coders think through the logic of coding without having to worry about also learning a new language. In Scratch, you can create animations, games, stories, and much more by snapping code blocks together. You can test your code and make changes as you go. If you are not feeling inspired with your own ideas, try following one of their tutorials!

Scratch Jr. – Download the FREE app, available on Android and Apple devices *Note: PBS also offers a free SCRATCH JR app with all of your favorite characters*

Recommended for: Pre-readers and early elementary children, for those who like to create and use their imagination

Scratch https://scratch.mit.edu/ 

Recommended for: Elementary-aged children and up, for those who like to create and use their imagination

 

Code.org & Hour of Code

Code.org is dedicated to creating opportunities for students to learn computer science skills through fun and engaging plugged and unplugged (no devices necessary) activities. Their Hour of Code activities can have anyone coding in just about an hour. Puzzle-like challenges get harder as you master skills and move through levels. Code.org is your one-stop-shop for all sorts of coding and computer science resources, even ones you can try if you don’t have a device in front of you.

Recommended for: Everyone from pre-readers to adults, for those who like problem solving and puzzles, and those who like to create and challenge their thinking.

https://code.org/

 

TinkerCAD & Codeblocks

Codeblocks is a coding program that allows you to use code to create 3D designs. Drag and drop Blockly-style commands together to build a 3D model, then run your program and watch as it is built on screen. You can save your creation as a GIF or 3D print your creation if you have access to a 3D printer.  

Recommended for: Upper Elementary ages and up, for those who like creating things, are interested in 3D design or 3D printing, and for those who would like to improve their coding skills with a new challenge

https://www.tinkercad.com/learn/codeblocks

 

MakeCode Arcade

For the video gamer in your home, check out Arcade.Makecode. It combines a Blockly coding environment with the fun of creating your very own 8-Bit (think original Nintendo and Atari) games. Design and program every aspect of your game then try it out using the embedded simulator. If you are ready to graduate from a Blockly coding language, MakeCode allows the option to transition your code to JavaScript. Try working on your game in either language; switch back and forth when you need some help or want to see what you’ve written.  There are tons of tutorials and resources to help you build your first game in no time! 

Recommended for: Upper elementary ages and up, ideal for middle & high school students, for those who are interested in game design, and for those who want to improve their logic and communication skills. 

https://arcade.makecode.com/ 

 

Thunkable

If creating an app is something you’ve always wanted to try, then check out Thunkable.  With an easy-to-use interface and test-as-you-go platform, it’s easy to learn the introductory skills to becoming an app developer. Drag and drop app features and snap code-blocks together to design and test your own creation, then publish your app and share it with your friends. You will need to create a free account to get started so you can save and access projects. It is highly recommended that you do your coding work on a computer or tablet. You will also need a second device like a tablet or phone to test your app. 

Recommended for: Middle school ages and above, for those who like to be creative, and those who want to grow their troubleshooting skills with real-time feedback.  

https://thunkable.com/#/ 

 

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Kate Saulsbery-DeFelice graduated from Russell Sage College with a dual degree in Childhood Education and Life Sciences. She has been a STEM Educator at the Connecticut Science Center since 2014, and especially loves sparking scientific curiosity in early elementary aged students. Kate is also a FIRST Robotics Competition mentor who is passionate about technology and working alongside students to solve problems, generate new ideas, and prototype solutions. Her goal is to help everyone discover and grow their appreciation and excitement for STEM.