Northstar Learning Center

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Scratch at NorthStar Learning Centers

Based in New Bedford, MA, NorthStar Learning Centers provides early childhood education, afterschool, youth development, and family support to help young people overcome poverty, discrimination, educational disadvantage, violence, and other adversity through learning essential competencies and hopefulness with which they can transform their lives and communities. A minority nonprofit organization, we work in the public sphere to remove systemic barriers and open pathways for the people we serve to achieve a better life.

Where education is the only viable route out of poverty, we want to ensure that low-income students and students of color reap the benefits from technology education so that they can go on and fully participate in the knowledge-based economy. The “digital divide” is not just about computer and Web access, but also about how computers and the Internet are used in schools. The research suggests that, especially in schools in low-income communities and communities of color, computers and Web access are mainly used for simple fact-finding in the guise of “research,” skills-practice games, and other applications that barely skim the surface of what computer technology can do. To bridge the digital divide, we have to expose all students to computer applications where they can use their creativity, critical-thinking, and collaborative skills to arrive at project-oriented solutions. That’s where MIT’s Scratch comes in; working on Scratch projects allows students to get “under the hood,” where they actually learn to program, and in so doing, achieve real proficiency with digital technology and a host of related 21st-century skills.

Elementary school students who come to NorthStar’s afterschool program are using Scratch as a tool for storytelling, creating digital art, designing games, and more. We plan to introduce youth in our other programs to learning with Scratch.