OGDEN — Students participating in one of Ogden School District’s summer programs, Digital Learning Ambassadors, held a community event Thursday night showcasing their work.
One of the first student projects guests encountered as they walked in allowed them to control a laptop, and make music, with Play-Doh.
The laptop was hooked up to a small box called a Makey Makey. The Makey Makey had several other cords coming out of it, and the small metal “gator clamp” at the end of each of these cords was covered in Play-Doh.
When guests would press the Play-Doh, a sound would play on the computer, as if it were controlled by a keyboard. Other objects or material can also be used, like bananas — or human hands holding the clamps.
“Humans are conductors,” said Eliza Bohne, a participant in the summer program who will start sixth grade next school year. “It’s weird, but it’s science.”
Bohne set up the Makey Makey for the event, using a free online tool called Scratch that teaches simple coding. Scratch is produced by MIT, and anyone can set up an account.
Program participants made several other projects using Scratch, including online games and digital art with and without music.
One of Bohne’s music videos featured a unicorn running from left to right across the screen and a donut in the upper right corner that gradually grew larger and larger.
Students could select music and other sound effects, and even write dialogue for their characters, which showed up in little speech bubbles.
They did all of this with simple coding.
In addition to using Scratch, students watched instruction videos through CS First, a curriculum produced by Google that teachers students and teachers how to use Scratch.
Prior to the event, students designed a logo and made T-shirts and a poster advertising the event, using some of the skills they had learned.
They also planned a service component, making care packages for U.S. troops stationed in Africa.
Kylie Mohr, an English teacher at Mound Fort Junior High who ran the program along with three other teachers, said she decided she wanted to participate as a teacher because an understanding of computer coding is becoming a vital skill.
“Coding is found in every aspect of our everyday lives,” Mohr said — whether in our phones, rides at an amusement park or video games. “(Learning about coding) helps students appreciate the world around them.”
Ogden School District started the Digital Learning Ambassadors Program last year, said Ashlie Cashin, digital learning specialist with Ogden School District.
The district wanted to create a camp where kids could be creative, she said.
The first group in summer 2018 was made up of students in grades 10–12, who used Google’s applied digital skills curriculum.
This year, the program expanded to include younger students and teach them how to use Scratch. Altogether, 15 fifth and sixth graders and 10 students in grades seven–12 participated.
Cashin said they hope students in the program will want to return next year and bring their friends.
Next year, registration for the summer program will open in May, and there will be three age groups: grades five and six, grades seven and eight, and grades nine through 12.
Students attend four days a week, for three hours each day, during the month-long program. The program is free for all students in Ogden School District.