Sherston Coding

It’s raining code. Hallelujah! Code powers our digital world, and in a recent survey, many parents said they would rather their children learn a programming language than French, German or Spanish. Furthermore, coding promotes problem solving, critical thinking, project design, persistence, collaboration, and communication. Learn to code, and you become a digital architect and builder.

Embracing coding, however, is a daunting task for teachers with little experience (and no, watching The Matrix doesn’t count). But, the requirement to teach coding is really exciting. You don’t have to be ‘the one’ in coding in order to teach it, as there are plenty of self-directed learning resources available here to help.

I believe that every child needs to taste, explore and tinker with coding through an adventure, and Sherston Coding is just that. It’s most certainly child-friendly, introducing the visual programming computer language made popular by Scratch – the fantastic open-ended tool designed to simplify the process of creating and writing animations, games, music, interactive stories and art.

Sherston Coding was developed by Simon Hosler, the award-winning author of the educational blockbuster Crystal Rainforest, when he noticed that schools didn’t have any resources to teach Scratch coding in an engaging and interesting way. This robust resource is, then, a return to Crystal Rainforest, and uses 10 activity challenges and lots of robots to introduce new coding techniques in a logical and sequential manner. It’s basically Scratch for beginners.

The resource is divided into four parts with 22 interactive puzzles, games and achievable challenges. Children have to help Doctor Han deal with hundreds of evil robots that have attacked scientists on Echo Island. They need to discover what is going on, then rescue the scientists.

There are games to play, projects to remix and lots of sound, graphic and animation assets from the adventure that help children gain the confidence to use Scratch independently. There are many layers to this resource including linked projects, helpful notes, animated and interactive tutorials and instructions to enable all children to understand Scratch coding techniques.

While this resource doesn’t require any coding expertise, it has the power to quickly develop it. So it is great to see that it also includes advanced Scratch coding techniques such as ‘define blocks’, ‘conditional statements’, ‘cloning’ and ‘variables’. There are also new debugging challenges that further reinforce children’s understanding of Scratch coding, allowing them to look at where errors occur and then troubleshoot. It’s a great catalyst for learning, and all within the atmosphere of a very believable adventure.

The major benefits of using Sherston Coding include teaching critical decision making, cause and effect, analytical thinking and providing a sense of empowerment for creating something from scratch, using Scratch. You might think that coding is for upper KS2 and beyond, but far from it, with Scratch the basics can be introduced early on in children’s school careers.

Very few teachers have received any formal training that can help them learn Scratch at a proficient level, and many find the lack of fun curriculum materials a further obstacle. This is where Sherston Coding comes in, because it teaches the basics to children and adults and provides an exciting visual context to scaffold learning of the basic concepts of Scratch and beyond.

Our Verdict

Scratching an itch

Coding has become one of the trendiest topics in education, but to get children really engaged it has to be fun. This is where Sherston Coding really succeeds, because it is very playful, and you’ll be itching to share it with your class. It helps them think like computers, and learn to be creators of programs, not just consumers.

As no previous knowledge is assumed or required, this resource lends itself perfectly to the primary environment. It is an accessible and inventive resource that will add some real value to your teaching. It’s also a solid stepping stone for moving on to other expressive Scratch projects and then text-based code. If you are feeling under-confident when thinking about coding then this is the resource to help you get with the program. Sherston Coding should be applauded for leading the way in combining the power and simplicity of Scratch in a creative computing context that children will know and love. You can even try a quick demo at here.

Pie Corbett