Animated Volcano in Scratch

kids' drawing of volcano

Drawn by C, age 7. I’m especially fond of the underground magma.

Scratch animation

It’s fairly obvious that I love Scratch, the icon-based programming language developed by MIT.  It’s a fabulous way for kids to dip their toes into learning about computer programming and computer science principles.

I’ve been using it for almost 4 years and each time I mess around with it, I learn something new. In the beginning, we use it creatively – as it was intended to be used. We start with a few blocks and see what we can make. I do some guided learning, but there’s a lot of choice and a focus on enjoying the language.

Then, we start moving into deeper and deeper concepts – variables, sending messages and conditional statements, etc. But, there still has to be an emphasis on being creative, flexible and offering a somewhat open-ended project.

Animated Volcano in Scratch

Typically, the second lesson I demonstrate deals with animation. We choose a background, change it slightly (the color of the lights, add a disappearing item, etc.) and then apply the following program:

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Many of them get the concept, though they don’t truly understand it until they try to make their own animation. It’s at that point that they realize the slight differences are what truly matters in animation.

That usually works for most of my ten-year-old and up students, but I needed a more thorough explanation for my newly minted seven-year-old. He has been begging (for over a year) to work with Scratch and I finally relented in January.

Storyboarding with Scratch

We did the above background animation, but it still wasn’t quite clicking, so I decided to start with a hand-drawn storyboard process. I went with an animated volcano in Scratch. That leaves a lot of personal choice options, but the key concepts remain the same.

I made a simple example and asked the younger kids to sketch out the various stages of a volcano. They were allowed ample time to view (and stop) my volcano program.

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Once the steps were labeled, they set out making a different background (or sprite) with four different scenes – based on what they drew.

C's animated volcano in Scratch

I uploaded C’s volcano animation. Check it out: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/108661198/

A simple introduction to storyboarding, and a way to keep the ‘creative’ in Scratch, not to mention a quick glimpse into how basic animation works. Creative programming at work!