Fruit Jams II: Revenge of the Pineapple

Okay, so the pineapple was pretty docile. But if produce could rise up and wreak havoc, it had good cause on Tuesday and Wednesday, when we encouraged 5th-7th graders to stab them repeatedly (and gleefully) with paperclips until they made crazy noises. If any revenge was exacted, it was in the form of an insidious stickiness we're still finding in random places.

We held Round 2 of this workshop in Brookdale's large meeting room, with 5 staggered tables and 2 laptops at each one; the kids mostly worked in pairs with a few singles and triples thrown in. There were about 15 kids at each session, and they were almost entirely the same group both times, which was ideal. We had 2-3 staff plus 2-3 teens to help. In past workshops where the kids were all new to Scratch we would've been scrambling to get questions answered with that ratio. However, for the first time at my library, they were almost entirely experienced Scratch users. It was amazing! Most of them had been trained by Cynthia and her Teen Tech Squad at earlier workshops at Brooklyn Park.

I alternated short bursts of instruction with time to work on the new element. What we showed was almost exclusively sound-related, but every single one of the kids added visuals and animated elements as well based on their previous experience. I'll upload some examples soon. Like at the Brooklyn Park sessions, we started with just the sound blocks, then added the Pico Board, then added a wet sponge circuit. On Day Two came the fruit.

This particular group of kids listened well during the "formal" times, and we tried to keep it short. Then they had lots of time to stab fruit, make a mess, and experiment with the Pico Boards. Many of them came with friends or relatives, so collaboration was natural. There was some interaction with new people, but mostly with whomever they came with. The software worked just fine; we didn't use the website much at all for this program. (As a side note, we were using version 1.4, and even though I'm guessing at least some of the kids had an earlier version at home, nobody batted an eye at the change. Very adaptable!) The Pico Boards tended to stop working at random times and we needed to unplug, replug, restart, etc., in several cases, but that was the only technical glitch.

We invited the families to come for the last 15 minutes of the workshop for a World Premiere Performance of the newly-created musical compositions. The groups each went up and shared their projects on the big screen, then we attempted a group performance in the style of a bell choir, with all the kids and their fruit of choice lined up.

The technical part worked better than it had at BP, but it was still pretty chaotic- I would tweak the group element in the future unless we had more time to rehearse. Also, these kids were very interested in manipulating visual elements as well as sound. We may try and incorporate that into future (if any) iterations of Fruit Jams. Everything else went well- we were able to iron out a lot of the pacing and timing after the Brooklyn Park version of this workshop. This was our last "formal" program of the summer, and it was a great note to end on (no pun intended). The kids listened fairly well when they were supposed to, stayed on task, and seemed to be having a great time. Much of the success of this workshop was due to the high percentage of participants who had previous Scratch experience. We were able to jump right in and teach new elements, and they ran with them.

Thanks for the Sponge Music code, Keith! It was a perfect springboard for Fruit Jams, and we never would have figured out all the math on our own. One question we were left with was, where do we go from here? Was this a summer-only crowd, or is there a way to keep them coming back for advanced workshops? If what we need to get them back is increasingly complex and unusual topics (i.e. Fruit Jams, game controllers, etc.), how can we maintain that level of awesomeness given our current work overload?

Remains of the fruit

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Comment by Sabrina Sutliff-Gross on August 11, 2009 at 1:44pm
We've struggled with that too at SMM - figuring out the appropriate session for individual Scratch users is still a challenge and then giving rich opportunities to the advanced users as well as beginners is as well? Great photos by the way.... and I am impressed that you were able to dig in with fruit jams with a pretty good sized group!
Comment by Cynthia on August 6, 2009 at 4:34pm
Also it seems like we need to reach a saturation point in terms of Scratch skills before we can start to cultivate a advanced user community that returns for programs and open lab time, at least around these parts? I think most of the kids at this workshop had Internet access at home and had downloaded Scratch on their home computers after doing an intro workshop elsewhere.
Comment by Cynthia on August 6, 2009 at 4:27pm
Another question we had was about making more things conducive to collaboration. If you encourage participants to bring a friend to work with, you automatically have opportunities for collaboration, maybe? It might also make kids more comfortable with talking to strangers (other kids) if they have a buddy with them. Or it might make them only talk to their buddy. We're not sure about that.
Comment by Jen on August 3, 2009 at 7:54am
Great story and pictures, Alicia. And excellent follow up questions ... my question for you would be, where would you like it to go from here? What do you think your library could support? Anything you're currently doing as part of your other programming that you'd be willing to forego to keep on this path? You don't need to answer here, but just things to think about. Nice work!

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