Eliza Learns to Program

In June we went to the Maker Fair. Eliza and I were walking around looking at all of the tables and we saw one with a ton of Macs on it, so (naturally) we gravitated towards it. I recognized one of the people manning the tables: he had worked at Sun Microsystems in the past and is a huge Java programming fan. He gave a few different speeches to the Computer Science undergrads while I was in college and was a regular at my ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) meetings. It’s funny that the same guy that introduced concepts to me while I was in college also introduced some to Eliza at the Maker Fair. Small world.

He told us about Scratch, a programming language built for children. It’s for the most part drag and drop, and allows children to get an introduction into programatic thinking. I can’t imagine where I’d be now if I had this kind of stuff when I was a kid (man I sound old!).

We knew it was legit, because of this: “Scratch is developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, with financial support from the National Science Foundation, Microsoft, Intel Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Google, Iomega and MIT Media Lab research consortia.”

I checked it out, and decided that it was the perfect way to introduce Eliza to my area of nerddom.

Eliza Learns to Program

So we downloaded the application, started playing around, and within minutes we were making fun little applications that clearly illustrate “IF THIS HAPPENS, THEN DO THIS” concept. Eliza got to pick what to make the program do. We began by recording Eliza saying “Look at my pretty dress!” Then we programed the princess to say “Look at my pretty dress!” when you click on her.

Eliza Learns to Program

It seems so minuscule, however, it drives the concept home hard. She quickly began to come up with other things that we could do. She decided to make the colors of the princess’s dress change when you click her. She said “Let’s put a cat next to her!” We made the cat get bigger when you click on it, then we made the cat meow as it got bigger. Then Eliza and I added another sound effect (the song we hum as our fat cat Charcoal waddles across a room). We decided to make the program play the fat cat sound when the cat gets bigger and a tiny little meow when the cat gets smaller. Then we made it get smaller when you press the spacebar, but bigger when you click on it. The best part, it’s all drag and drop, so you don’t have to know programming. Of course it helps that her dad is a Software Engineer, but that’s neither here nor there.

Eliza's Program

You can test out Eliza’s program or go to Scratch to create your own with the small human of your choice. I know she’d love a few comments about her program if you have time to check it out!


Eliza participated in Allie’s Craft Olympics! In case you didn’t catch it yet, Megan and I even made the Craft Olympics the August Project Challenge. This project was for the Craft Olympics Event #2: Best Use of Digital.


Other NN stuff like this:

Do you know of any awesome computer skills building resources for kids?