In constructing her Introduction to Computer Science syllabus, upper division instructor Yuna Hur capped the course’s “Design Thinking” unit with Scratch@Stevenson—a project-based assignment in which students were asked to make a positive social impact on the Stevenson community. In response, her students created a wide variety of projects filled with useful and informative content with broad applications for peers, teachers, families, and more.

To start the unit, students surveyed community members to collect and analyze data to refine their ideas. Then, they used MIT’s Scratch block programming platform to build their work.

Ms. Hur explains, “I am constantly thinking intentionally of ways to ground learning activities where students are engaging with material (design thinking, in this case) as a dynamic skill to transfer into real-world contexts, and thus have experiences be meaningful and relevant for each student. Scratch@Stevenson prompted students to think about ways in which computer programs can be used to make a positive impact on people and their community. Throughout the process, students incorporated the design thinking framework and practiced empathizing with various members of our Stevenson community, to design a program through a user-centered perspective.”

All of the products that resulted from the assignment were programs that were tangibly useful to some subset of the RLS community. Some examples of what students created include an informational guide about sports at Stevenson, a summary of classroom expectations during remote learning, a freshman student matcher to match Grade 9 students based on personality, and more.

Ms. Hur made clear that she was incredibly impressed with what her programmers came up with and how they considered their fellow community members’ needs while working, saying, “I feel so grateful to have been part of the entire process for each student, from when they first learned about design thinking, to brainstorming innovative ideas, and learning about the gift of giving and receiving feedback… and, of course, to see it all come together at the end. This project also spoke volumes to how creative, open-minded, and engaged Stevenson students are — and how I also discovered seeing things from new perspectives because of them.”

Check out some of the finished projects created by class members below: