[Week 2 Reflection] How do you Facilitate Projects?


I work at a primary (elementary) school and I always try to sneak in at least two or three Scratch lessons into my class time (my whole-class access to computers is limited). These tend to be introductions to Scratch as most kids would have little to no experience of Scratch. My introductory lessons tend to be a guided, structured building up of a game using standard Scratch elements. This gives the kids a sound knowledge base, guided practice, and an understanding of a modular build-and-test approach.
As we program the game, I point out what can be changed within the overall structure so that by the end we have ‘the same but different’ game designs. I realise this is the opposite of what Mitch is proposing with project-based learning, but in my experience it’s the quickest way to get a whole class of kids of varying abilities up to speed and to the point of having experienced the success of creating a relatively sophisticated working game.
From this point onwards they can play to their hearts content … but they have to want to do so enough to give up their lunch breaks as I have no time to fit more Scratch into the ‘normal’ school day!
In our lunch time clubs, I find that working towards a competition of some sort is the most effective way to focus their projects and maintain interest in a quality project over an extended period of time. Most kids will also work at home once they’ve been hooked by the potential of their work. I try not to tell them what to do though I’m always on the lookout for ways to raise the quality of their goals, methods, stories, interactions, etc.
Ultimately, Scratch competes with a whole lot of priorities and I feel we simply have to do whatever it takes to provide the opportunities for all kids to have a go and experience success.


Parecchi sono i progetti che propongo a scuola. Questo approccio didattico è fondamentale per poter far sviluppare nei ragazzi la capacità di programmare ed avere chiaro tutti gli elementi fondamentali per poter dare vita alle loro idee. La programmazione nella vita scolastica è fondamentale è necessaria per abituare i ragazzi a pensare, riflettere e sviluppare in loro quel senso critico. Attraverso attività operative i miei alunni sviluppano processi metacognitivi di fondamentale importanza per la loro crescita. L’apprendimento avviene percorrendo quelle fasi importanti suggerite da Bloom.


Currently I am running a Code Club in my local library for 9-11 year olds and they are given a project to do each week (one hour). Our intention was that this club would be for complete beginners who don’t have coding at school, and we advertised it as such. But gradually we are finding “geeks” joining our sessions and moaning about how simple the projects are :frowning:

Everyone who comes loves playing games, so I have substituted some of my own projects in place of the official CC ones which build complete working games with lots of opportunities for expansion. Pong, Asteroids, Car Racing so far and these work pretty well. At the moment the instructions tell all about how to get the basic game working, I might want to review this.

The CC runs for 10 weeks and the last two sessions are “Make Whatever You Like”. First time we made it a competition with prizes for the best ones, but this caused uproar from the losers including many tears. We abandoned this and now they just make what they like, show it to be their parents during the last session, and to their friends if they want to. All their projects are stored online so they can continue with them when they leave the club.

We have tried getting them to create something based in whatever they are most interested in, but social media nowadays means they don’t want anyone to know they are in the Girl Guides, the Scouts, the Cadets, football team, ice hockey team, karate classes or whatever in their spare time - any of which would make a good basis for a personal project. So when asked what do you do in your spare time, too often the answer is “nothing” or “play on my xbox” or “dunno” or similar even if they have an active interest in something.


I think this is one of the biggest challenges when working with the creation of projects, along with motivation (they go together).


What do you think about young people who explore creative tools (building games, strategy games, various materials (clay, DIY materials, wool, straws…), software, etc!), or who write, who draws or who solve mathematical problems or riddles freely, without constraint during certain periods of work in the classroom, under the supervision of the teacher who guides, observes?

I think they develop a better understanding of their skills and themselves. They also develop the desire to surpass themselves, to persevere. I think that after free exploration, they will sometimes come to the conclusion that planning makes it possible to achieve what we want, that error is a good thing that allows us to learn and that to work with or near other students who explore ways to stimulate their creativity or carry out projects is inspiring


I’m an engineer, not an educator. Can I ask a silly question?
Why is it important that the specific curricular outcomes be covered?
After all, I’ve forgotten over half of everything I ever learned.


Hi @AnneOgborn

Here in the U.K. we have to cover curriculum content as it is required by law. Also, in the interests of parity for all learners, we give the same opportunities to all children.


Doesn’t that make open ended project based learning difficult? I just did the ‘animate your name’ project, I did it my way, and didn’t use Scratch (I’m already fairly competent in Scratch) so I learned more about videography and metal stamping.


for some, gathering all the ideas to one project is hard

so we need to go step by step

using some logic Algorithms (step by step) will help as will


Re ‘open ended projects’, I prefer to design projects of which the end (outcome) is specified a solution to a need, but with very little specs about the outcome itself. The same for the process of the project work: some specs (given what needs to be ‘covered’ of the curriculum), but with enough freedom for the students. Given the fact that students in a year work at quite a few projects, a teacher can vary the specs which are predetermined. One project it is the use of a specific software program, next project it is a specific model for group work, third project it is a creative and imaginative contribution of each of the group participants, etc.
Example: “imagine due to genetic modification a certain percentage of the people develop knees that bend backwards. They complain that there is no proper furniture for them yet, as ordinary chairs are very uncomfortable for them. Design three different pieces of furniture”. In such a project the teacher can choose which specs will be given and which ones are undetermined and up to the group to decide.


I’ve been trying to help as a facilitator for teacher and students to make projects … I’ve always been cautious about the purpose by using even the 5W and scaling the actions well, detailing the the operations to be done. It’s easy when planning projects of maths, history or geografy and science, but more difficult for humanistic paths.


I am now leading our new Idea & Design Lab. It is both exciting and scary. I love offering open-ended projects and seeing what the kids can do. More times than not, there are amazing results. What I have found is that there are those who run and those who struggle to crawl. Some you can’t rein in and those who can’t get started. Those who want to use cardboard and duct tape and those who want to solder, laser cut, 3D print. Since they are all over the place, it is hard to keep an eye on everyone, especially when it comes to safety.

Resnick speaks about not giving kids instructions and let them explore, discover, have fun, and learn. I am all for this, but recently I started an Arduino activity. I have found that the kids simply cannot get started until they get some background knowledge about breadboards, LEDs, resistors, etc. That said, this week, I will be giving them a brief overview, presenting them with a challenge and then seeing what they can do. This is a long way of saying that I prefer to let them do their thing, but at times, they do need some foundational knowledge on which they can build.


I have been teaching game design, digital storytelling and simulation design workshops for several years. For those new to Scratch, rather than giving them instructions or spending time going through tools and blocks, I begin with a challenge, “Make the cat move,” or “Change the color of the cat,” or “Delete the cat.” This makes the use of Scratch feel more like a game and encourages users to be more in discovery mode. I also emphasize there is often more than one way to do something in Scratch and even though I am “the teacher” that does not necessarily make me the expert.

Once I have presented a list of challenges, I can circulate, giving individual support as needed; this also allows me to present new challenges to individuals who complete the initial set faster. This allows differentiated learning. Here is a typical set of challenges in a beginner Scratch game design workshop:

  1. Make the cat move using blocks.
  2. Use blocks to control the cat with arrow keys.
  3. Add a ball and use blocks to make it bounce around the stage.
  4. Enable a player to kick the ball.

As students discover/add new features I encourage them to “show them off” in front of the class. From here they can create a second game in another genre (maze game, shooter, etc), design their own game graphics and collaborate to make larger/more complicated games.

If you wish to dig deeper into this approach, I’ve created a series of teacher training videos freely available on YouTube:


When teaching a design class, the first thing I distinguish is the difference between art and design: we create art to express ourselves, while we create designs for a client (even though the client might be oneself). So another strategy can be to introduce the concept of clients by having students design projects for other students or organizations (building on your idea of ‘a project to improve something’).


I’ve begun to introduce a 5-minute rule in my workshops. I tell students I am only allowed to speak for 5 minutes, and if I go over, they are allowed to “buzz me” as loud as they want (bit like a game show). This helps me stay on track and empowers them. I find this particularly important in shorter workshops.


You can also help win over students by noting where curriculum outcomes fit into the project workflow and assessment.


Regarding the “failure” challenge:
One of my favorite aspects of teaching programming, even for younger children, is that failure is a given and debugging can actually be fun. A favorite challenge is to present broken programs for them to fix. I also intentionally make mistakes when presenting a new technique (and often un-intentionally present mistakes, too).

Another activity is having the students break something in a script, switch seats and have students search for the bug. I once created a broken project in Scratch, shared it with my students, and was surprised /delighted months later when I found other users were finding the project via the Scratch website and were remixing and debugging it (I learned this from comments they left).

The faster you can get support to a student the more failure-stress may be averted; encouraging students to ask for help and empowering students to help each other are keys to a healthy computer classroom.


I’m an engineer turned educator, so my project design follows engineering design thinking.
I always begin with a problem: the water in this village is polluted.
Next, I have my students brainstorm. If their ideas are not creative enough, I throw in a very sillly/weird one: give them new genes that allow them to drink polluted water or have everyone drink their pee. This can loosen up the group and invite more out of the box ideas. There are many, many ways to solve this problem (purify water, bring water, move village, etc), so it is very open-ended. No discussion (good or bad) of how to do the ideas is allowed at this point, but new ideas inspired by them are encouraged.
Next, I introduce constraints. The villagers will not agree to move unless we pay them to move all the dirt and buildings in the village too, and this is against the law. We narrow our ideas.
Next, each students researches and reports on a certain idea. The group chooses the most promising one or two or few, and gets more info, builds prototypes, codes, experiements, whatever is needed to prove it.
Next, idea is presented to someone who has not been involved - another team, staff member, expert in the field, parent and they ask questions and raise issues
Finally, the questions and issues that come from presentation session are considered, solution is redesigned, and process loops back between presenting & redesigning, revisiting the original problem when necessary.
This is basically the Engineering Design Method, and I’ve had it work with 1st graders through adults, in science, making, engineering, coding, learning new skills, after school camps, Lego teams, generally any STEAM activity.
Facilitation of this method is a combination of reining in and encouraging creativity, depending on the goal and the group. It is always chaotic but it almost always works. Checking in with each team/individual is critical, so I’m usually busy circulating between groups, affirming or redirecting or teaching skills they need. And between sessions I’m trying desperately to get them the resources, info, experts they need to keep moving.


Identifying which standards will be addressed/included in projects can help sell teachers on project-based learning. Plus there are many standards, like “working in groups” which actually require projects over tests.


Students can draw/paint/sculpt using traditional materials then use the CREATE SPRITE FROM CAMERA button to bring their creation into Scratch. This allows them to do stop-motion animation or have more hand-crafted digital projects.