Matthew Paterson Students Have Flat Stanley on the Move

The presentations were moving along quickly and time was running short. After each brief demonstration, Michele Love, Matthew Paterson’s Instructional Technology Coach, allowed each student to answer a question from a classmate about his or her project.

This time, as Mrs. Love attempted to move to that next step, the student interrupted.

“Wait,” she said. “It’s not done yet.”

Teacher presents coding project to the class

In fact, the animation wasn’t finished. The project — which asked fourth graders in Mrs. Anastasia Amelio’s class to create an animated cover for the book “Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures #15: Lost in New York” — required the students to move characters, animate letters, add sounds and more. In this particular case, the student’s Flat Stanley character flew across the screen while holding a fistful of balloons by their strings. But after he left the screen, Flat Stanley slowly floated back down through the picture.

When he returned, the impressed classmates began laughing. “How did you do that?” they asked.

To complete the project, each student used Scratch, a programming language designed for young students. They wrote their own coding by dragging snippets of code together like puzzle pieces.

The book cover project was the culmination for the district’s One School, One Book reading program. That it tied in an introduction to computer programming added yet another valuable teaching moment on top of reading and discussing the book.

Said Love: “We wanted the whole project to be purposeful.”

Although the Flat Stanley book was read by students at all elementary grade levels, the classroom projects varied. For example, kindergarten students learned how to expedite the oxidation of a penny, which simulated the copper  oxidation of the Statue of Liberty, one of the sites Flat Stanley visited in the book.

The coding program learned by fourth-grade students will be a valuable introduction to the technology. Love said computer programming is already part of middle-school students’ curriculum, but new state standards will require younger students to learn more of it in coming years.

“Coding will be a more regular part of their classwork,” she said.

The students have already shown some aptitude for that skill. They created movement, like the flying Flat Stanley or a walking cat; they added the sounds of honking car horns and train whistles; they changed the color or backgrounds and text; and they recorded their own voices and added the sound to their animations.

Throughout the process, students learned more than just coding. They read the book and brainstormed what should be included in their animated book covers. They discussed the setting (New York), and identified that the character (Flat Stanley) and the book title should be featured prominently.

Students at all grade levels had their own discussions of the book. The classes went on virtual field trips and were asked to answer similar questions about historical sites Flat Stanley visited.

“We tried to make it so that it was applicable across the board for all students,” Love said.