Excelsior! Inspired by READY JET GO!, in this activity children will be challenged to use PBS KIDS ScratchJr to create projects where they blast off and explore our solar system.
Total time to completion: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Getting Started: 5 minutes
Play: 10 minutes
Explore: 20 minutes
Watch: 15 minutes
Create: 30 minutes
Share: 15 minutes
Keep Going: 10 minutes
Children will learn how to use the PBS KIDS ScratchJr programming blocks to make animated stories and interactive projects. They will explore coding and computational thinking practices as they utilize technology as a tool for creativity, expression and learning with the PBS KIDS ScratchJr app.
- Programming / Coding - Creating a sequence of instructions that tells a computer (or other technology) what to do
- Sequence / Algorithm - A series of ordered steps to solve a problem or accomplish a task
- Events - One thing causing another thing to happen
- Solar System - The planets, moons, comets, and asteroids that orbit our Sun
- iPads or Android tablets for each child (or group of children)
- The READY JET GO! “Tour of the Solar System,” episode
- TV, projector, computer, or other device to play the episode
- A document camera to display tablet work to the whole group or a cable to connect the tablet and projector
- Chalkboard, whiteboard, or poster paper for brainstorming
- Design Handouts
- Parent Handout (English | Spanish)
The context in which you are engaging in this activity will impact how you get started. Take the time to set up cues, preview what you’re going to be doing and why, and to get the kids ready and focused for a fun and creative PBS KIDS challenge.
Today, children will be creating PBS KIDS ScratchJr projects that take them to any planet in our solar system. Ask the group if they can name all of the planets in our solar system. Help fill in any blanks if they get stuck.
Ask a focusing question and have each child answer: What is one fact you know about space?
Play a special space version of the game, ‘Red Light, Green Light,’ where the group travels to all of the planets in our solar system. This game works very similarly to how the orange speed block works in the app; the colored lights in the game impact the movement of the platers, in the same way the speed block choice can impact the speed of the blocks in the app.
The goal of the game is to travel through our solar system starting at the Sun. For the first round, the Sun is the starting line and Mercury is the finish line.
- Green light = kids can walk quickly.
- Yellow light = kids can walk slowly.
- Red light = kids have to freeze in place.
Once one child makes it to Mercury, play another round traveling from Mercury to Venus. Continue your tour through our solar system as long as time permits.
Use a projector to model the features outlined below that will help the group with their projects. When modeling blocks and features, first ask children what they think each block will do before testing out their guesses. Additionally, give them some free time to openly explore the app. Kids are curious and fearless with technology. After taking the time to introduce and model specific features of the tool, it is valuable to provide kids with opportunities to explore, discover, and learn on their own.
See the PEG + CAT – Tree Problem Activity to learn how to add characters and backgrounds and how to use the Motion blocks.
Add a New Page - PBS KIDS ScratchJr projects can have up to four pages.
Go to Page Blocks - If you have more than one page in your project, the Go to Page block appears and allows you to tell your whole project to go to a different page. End blocks can be used to end a program, cause it to repeat forever, or to move the entire project to another page. If you have more than one page in your project, the Go to Page block appears and allows you to tell your whole project to go to different page. After creating multiple pages, create a program for a character that includes the Go to Page block, and trigger the program. Your project should now move from the first page to the second page. This block is a great tool for creating multi-page projects that progress on their own.
Say Blocks - The Say block is a great way to add dialogue to your projects with thought bubbles.
Speed Blocks - The orange Speed block will change your character's speed.
Start on Tap Blocks - This block is a fun alternative to the Start on Green Flag block.
Click the image above to view the 11-minute READY JET GO! episode, “Tour of the Solar System,” and have everyone pay attention to the different planets in our solar system and what makes each of them special. After the episode, discuss which planets they remember Jet and his friends visiting and any special facts about those planets. Capture this discussion on the board; making children's thinking visible can help inspire ideas later on when they are figuring out what they want to create with their projects.
Now it’s time for everyone to make their own space projects! Make sure everyone has a tablet to work on and make yourself available to lend support as everyone works on their projects.
Have everyone choose one of the planets in our solar system and program Jet and his friends blasting off from Earth to visit that planet.
- Encourage the use of multiple pages for this project.
- Encourage everyone to use the Motion and Speed blocks for their space travel. When would the rocket go fast, slow, and medium speeds?
- Encourage everyone to use the Say and/or Sounds blocks to add fun space facts to their projects.
- Encourage everyone to program their rocket/saucer take-off when it is tapped on.
This project is also a wonderful opportunity to focus on making sure projects include a beginning, middle, and end. Using the Design Handouts, you can have everyone spend some time planning how they want their project to start, what will happen during their project, and how they want it to end. If anyone gets stuck, encourage them to ask each other for help.
Make It Simpler
Focus on creating a one-page project with a rocket that moves through space.
Have volunteers share their space projects with the group. Have them present both their animations and the blocks they used to create their programs. It can be helpful for children to speak and answer questions about their work. Verbalizing thinking is a great way to reinforce and understand what kids know about the tool and how to use it. Model and encourage the group to ask questions and to give and receive both warm and cool feedback. Examples of both type are:
Warm Feedback: Specific and positive feedback
- "I really like how you..."
- "It was really interesting when..."
- "It was clear you workd hard on..."
Cool Feedback: Specific and supportive suggestions
- "Have you thought about..."
- "What if you tried..."
- "It might be clearer if you..."
Based on which planets children created projects for, you can also set their tablets up in solar system order and have everyone take a tour of the solar system by walking around the class and checking out each other’s projects. This is a fun way to further reinforce the planets and their order.
- Challenge children to program the Jet characters to get into the spaceship before it takes off from Earth and out of it when it lands on another planet. Encourage them to use the Hide and Show blocks to make this happen.
- Encourage children to use text and voice recordings in their projects to provide facts about the planet of their choosing. They can add text on-screen with the Text button or Say block.
- They can also add voice and audio using the Sound Recording block.
- Practice using the Wait block to make your characters wait for different amounts of time. What number makes your character wait two seconds? What about four seconds? Hint: The answer is not two and four.
- Trying to measure time using the Wait block may be confusing for students, since it is measured in tenths of seconds. This design choice was intended to allow children to program brief, realistic pauses into their conversations and actions. Since children may not know about fractions or portions of time yet, this is a great opportunity to encourage and practice estimation and prediction.