Several local children attended the Coding with Kids class held at the Harker Heights Public Library on Saturday morning. The class was designed to teach introductory computer programming skills to children ages 8 through 11.

A class for older kids was offered Saturday afternoon.

The program itself, “Scratch,” was designed specifically to be user-friendly. There are really only a few main areas that participants had to learn, and even the youngest users managed this with ease.

Instructor Anthony Alampi took the young students through the process of coding the programs to produce animated scenarios.

By the time the class had reached the point where they could choose the backgrounds for their scenarios, 8-year-old Austin Hull of Harker Heights whooped, “This is going to be wicked!” and then proceeded to explain in detail what he had created: “A lion was protecting this castle, but he ran into the wall, and the cat slammed into the door, and the lion hit his head on the door, and the guard told the lion to scream because the lion became the bad guy.”

When learning how to insert speech bubbles, 9-year-old Andrea Alicea of Killeen, with her sweet fairy-tale storyline, had her witch catch up to her princess and say, “Game over, my pretty! Muahaha!”

Scratch is a fun way for children to learn basic programming skills, but they also learn a host of other skills along the way.

Just a few of the math skills learned are positive and negative integers, variables, and coordinates. They also learn logic, reasoning, and exercise their creativity through making their own interactive stories, animation, and even games.

And they all had fun.

Eight-year-old Adam Bloomquist of Harker Heights said, “I wish my mom would sign me up for another one of these ...I wish I could skip “Incredibles 2” this afternoon — this is way more exciting.”

Scratch was created by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. This is great news for parents who may have missed signing their children up for the initial class at the library, as MIT offers the program free to the public.

There is a separate page just for parents gives information about the program, a link to get you started, even a PDF file that can be downloaded and read later.

MIT also gives kids a way to share their work online with other kids around the world, or allows parents turn off that feature, enabling parents to keep kids offline.

For further information about Scratch, please visit https://scratch.mit.edu/about.

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