Coding Cultural Understanding
Project Plan Materials
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Creative Commons License
Coding Cultural Understanding by Chris Bartlo and Nick Nohner, 2016 Allen Distinguished Educators is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Project Overview

In this assignment students will create a computer game in Scratch, a game making programming language. The students will use their understanding of loops, conditional statements, variables and events to create a game that tells the story of a hunter or gatherer from an indigenous culture. They will have a choice between eight different indigenous cultures and the game design will reflect their unique interpretation of the task.

Chris Bartlo and Nick Nohner

School: Wilson High School

Type of School: Public - District

Location: Portland, OR

School Population: 1,227

Demographic: 24% minority students

% Free/reduced lunch program: 21%

Learning Outcomes

This project integrates computer science, design, and social studies concepts and meets learning standards in computer science. Students will be able to demonstrate their knowledge of coding principles, demonstrate their understanding of game mechanics, and demonstrate their understanding of the cultural practice they choose to highlight.
Download the open-source Project Plan Materials to view a complete list of standards and learning outcomes addressed in this project.

How Chris and Nick Did It

Grade: 9th – 12th

Timing: 200 minutes

Subjects: computer science, design, social studies

Materials: computers with internet access, Scratch or other game-making software, paper and pencils

Project Steps: Chris and Nick implement this project in two stages following an initial 30-minute preparation. The stages include: Game Mechanics, and Flow of Story and Incorporating Cultural Learning.

How You Can Do It

Grade: 6 - 12th 

Timing: 200+ minutes

Subjects: computer science, engineering and design, social studies, art

Materials: Computers, game-making software, paper and pencils are necessary for this project. Teachers can expand this project to add more elements such as poster boards or short stories.

Project Steps: In addition to the project steps developed by Chris and Nick you and your students may be interested in adding a short story or poster board to add another story-telling element to the games.
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Comments (6)
Lori Schlueter
7/25/2017 7:11:53 AM

Teacher from Brunswick, OH
We plan to use the coding with cultural understanding curriculum with our 3rd grade classes. Over 60 students would benefit from this implementation.

Over this next year, we plan to implement the curriculum with additional grades where hundreds of our students would be impacted.

Our K to 8 students use Scratch for 45 minutes per week. Therefore, our students were able to complete the Grant lesson during one computer science class period. We plan to use additional lessons this upcoming year.

Kim Rostick
3/6/2017 5:36:39 PM

Teacher from Tampa, FL
As we are rounding the corner to complete this adventure, I thought I would reflect on this experience with my fourth grade class of 20 students.
How did you modify or adapt the project to fit your classroom, teaching style and student needs?
We viewed the videos together as a class and discussed them. We also used an atlas to locate where the indigenous cultures lived.
Rather than giving the students a choice to complete any of the eight challenges. We spent the next 5 1/2 months (one hour per week) working through each challenge. As students became more proficient with Scratch, we were able to let some students work in other challenges.
When we were ready to begin the first challenge, we utilized "all of us are smarter than one of us" motto. Students worked in pairs on a computer to support and encourage each other. Once we shifted to 1:1 computer, students who were understanding the steps in the process and the tools to use, began to be coaches for the other students. At the end of each session, we conducted a walk about, where students could see the innovation and interpretation of each challenge.
I also adapted this DIY Guide by completed only the first 2-4 steps for each challenge. It provided enough of a robust bar for them to reach. For students who were ready to go above and beyond were encouraged to do so. It has been a memorable immersion into Scratch and learning about indigenous cultures. Thanks Chris and NIck!

Laura Griesel
3/3/2017 10:48:32 AM

Teacher from Piedmont, OK
My Robotics students used this as an introduction to coding. It was great, but next time I think I would include aspects of cultures besides hunting. Some of my students were uncomfortable designing a game in which they had to "kill animals".

Jenny Burns
8/19/2016 3:43:38 PM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
Hi Jaimie,

I agree this project would work well with small groups and a social studies focus. Although I am not well-versed in Scratch myself, I understand it is fairly user-friendly for people new to coding. Are there other teachers at your school who could help you? And what grade are your students? Perhaps some your students already know Scratch or could be leaders in their small groups.

I’m also curious if you have downloaded the Project Plan Materials for this guide yet. The materials include two helpful documents with additional information including helpful hints while using Scratch!

- Jenny

Jaimie Ellerbrock
8/18/2016 7:52:39 PM

Teacher from Queens, NY
I think this project lends itself to small group work on a social studies topic. I think the idea that students use a game to teach others about their topic is both interactive and memorable. My problem is I'd like to use technology to create a game, but my computer skills are limited. I looked at the Scratch website, and think it's just a bit over my head. Does anyone know of something I could use to have my students create a game in simpler terms?

Jenny Burns
6/30/2016 12:39:43 PM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
How can teachers adapt this project to fit their own classrooms? Does anyone have suggestions or recommendations?

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