[Edu-sig] after-school python, age 11+

Gregor Lingl gregor.lingl at aon.at
Wed Aug 20 23:37:56 CEST 2008

Jeremy Gray schrieb:
> Hi all,
> This is my first post to edu-sig, and its sort of long. In a nutshell:
> a) I have developed and posted a few new material for kids getting 
> started with programming, e.g., for an after-school club, at 
> http://afterschoolpython.pbwiki.com/  Its free (no advertising ever, 
> open-source recommended), and will be so forever.
> b) I am interested in collaborating with or sharing notes with others, 
> to make it even better.
> Being new to this interesting forum, I'll introduce myself briefly. 
> I'm a dad (two kids, age 11 and 5), and have always been a geek at 
> heart. I do science for a living (human brain imaging and psychology, 
> using computers for everything), and have interests in education 
> (including National Science Foundation grants related to education 
> research). I'm not an elementary-age educator, although have family 
> members who are educators. So it seems inevitable that I'd end up 
> lurking on python edu-sig :o) I've seen some fairly long posts, so 
> I'll take the plunge with a longish one myself. Apologies if that's 
> frowned on.
> Basically, I want to teach my 6th grader how to program this coming 
> year. We've fooled around with logo / turtle graphics and like it, and 
> are ready for a real language.
Hi Jeremy,

I just wanted to point out that Python also has a turtle graphics 
module: turtle.py
While turtle.py in Python 2.5 did a good job, it has somewhat limited 
capabilities. It will be replaced by an enhanced one from Python 2.6 on. 
This enhanced module (fomerly known to some of us as xturtle.py) is 
already part of Python 2.6 beta2 and I'll do a more elaborated posting 
on it as soon as beta3 is out, which should happen these days.

The new turtle module has - as one of it's new features - enhanced 
animation which is intended to serve as a visual feedback facility for 
young programmers. (Moreover they can - if they wish - choose the shape 
for their turtles, for instance they can use turtle-shaped turtles or 
design their own shapes ...)

The new module will also run unaltered - as is - under Python 2.5

You can download it from here:


The docs can be found here:



> I was quickly sold on python as the way to go, despite never having 
> used it myself (or any OO language ... or maybe in part because of 
> that--I want to learn something too!). I looked around for existing 
> materials, and am really impressed by how much is out there for python 
> (one of several selling points). yet I did not find anything I was 
> that completely happy with. I looked carefully at the following, and 
> learned a lot, and like a great many things about them:
> - Snake Wrangling for Kids
> - LiveWires summer program
> - other resources linked on Beginner's Guide to Python for non-programmers
> - A byte of python
> - J. Miller's 2004 PhD dissertation. his analysis of posts on what the 
> community thinks about desirable features in using python in education 
> is really helpful. one point that caught my eye was the dearth of 
> intro curriculum materials.
> So, I took the plunge and have started to write something up myself. 
> Its well underway, but is a work in progress, at
>     http://afterschoolpython.pbwiki.com/ 
> My goal is to have it be an experience in learning how a computer can 
> enhance your mind, using a real language, aimed at a young audience 
> without talking down to them. (Young but able to read, type using a 
> text editor, and do some elementary-school math). I tried to follow 
> Miller's guidelines on desirable features, but have not followed them 
> all (not yet at least, graphics is a glaring example).
> The key thing that motivated me to put effort into 
> yet-another-free-resource for learning python was to try to focus on 
> problem solving as enhanced by a computer, for this age group. Plus 
> sneaking in some geek tidbits here and there, like a few linux 
> command-line tools (e.g., top), so that they are not seen as exotic or 
> weird or hard. A few of the activities are basically cognitive 
> science, and a few are more or less math.
> I'm posting for two main reasons.
> 1. The first is just to say:  Hi, there is a little bit more 
> curriculum "raw material" out there, I hope someone else can use it 
> too. Who might be interested? My guess is that it will be most 
> appropriate for a self-selected audience, rather than cp4e. I envision 
> it being used in an after-school group (hence the name), probably at 
> the middle-school level but maybe some things would work for advanced 
> elementary (I'm not an educator, just guessing). Maybe some could be 
> rewritten for an older audience.
> Some of the activities are tried and true ("hello world!"), and some 
> are ones I thought up, like counting to a million to give kids a gut 
> sense for how fast computers are, described as turning yourself into a 
> cyborg, counting to a million in one second, and then changing back. I 
> want kids to see themselves as the agent that makes things happen, not 
> the computer. At first its a little freaky that way, but I hope its 
> ultimately more empowering as well. And I think it better reflects 
> reality: a computer is a tool, a prosthesis for thinking. Like a 
> bicycle is for transportation.
> I describe it as currently in "beta", meaning that, while there are 
> some rough edges, the ideas and activities might be useful to others 
> even so. Feedback would be very useful to have now to make it better. 
> Again, it will never have advertising.
> Its currently set up as a wiki, under a Creative Commons 
> Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License 2.0, which I used because 
> _A byte of python_ used it. I have it as wiki to emphasize that I'd 
> love to include others as hands-on contributors (see #2).
> 2. The second reason for this post is to say:  I know it can be way 
> better. I think its good enough that I can wing it through the fall, 
> but it would be cool to partner with a) people who have elementary & 
> middle-school education experience with programming (esp python), and 
> b) know OO and good projects for introducing it. I know the website is 
> currently just the start of what it could be. It currently reads like 
> notes for either self-guided exploration by kids, but given various 
> gaps in the description (hopefully filled soon) its probably best 
> thought of as structured notes for an informed adult to use when 
> leading a small group of kids. Its not complete yet, and I will be 
> revising after seeing how kids interact with it. Its not lesson plans, 
> although I could see some of the material being used in that way, with 
> more work.
> - feedback of any kind would be terrific, don't hold back just to be 
> polite. (As a scientist, all my day-job work gets peer reviewed, at 
> times "tersely", shall we say. it took some getting used to but now I 
> love getting frank feedback because ultimately it makes for a better 
> product.) So if anything moves you one way or another, I'd love to 
> know and won't be offended. This is not to say I'll change things to 
> reflect every comment, of course, but I definitely promise to read and 
> consider them all closely. More importantly, if you have a lot to add, 
> I'd love to have collaborators as well.
> - I've set it up as a wiki with the idea that eventually there may be 
> several editors, developers, and caretakers (a few, not the whole 
> world). Please email me to talk about possibilities. For example, 
> currently, there's nothing that uses graphics, which of course are 
> very engaging, especially for this age group. currently, there's 
> nothing that uses or explains OO, despite python being strongly OO. 
> getting to games would be good. And I'm not convinced that being 
> hosted on pbwiki is best, either. So there's room to grow as well.
> to comment on anything, you can either email me personally 
> (jrgray at gmail.com <mailto:jrgray at gmail.com>, which is the same email 
> for the wiki owner) or just leave a comment at the end of a particular 
> wiki page (I think they make you sign up for an account an login to 
> leave a comment).
> Anyway, its nice to be joining this community.
> best regards,
> --Jeremy
> /*-------------------------------------------------------------
>       Jeremy R. Gray, PhD
>       Assistant Professor, Yale University
>       Dept. of Psychology & Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program
>       web        http://www.yale.edu/scan/
> -------------------------------------------------------------*/
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