The MIT Media Lab and Tufts University

Based on the ScratchJr programming language co-developed by the MIT Media Lab and Tufts University, PBS has released PBS KIDS ScratchJr, a free app to help children ages 5-8 learn coding concepts as they create their own stories and games using over 150 PBS KIDS characters.

With the PBS KIDS ScratchJr app, kids can snap together colorful programming blocks to make their favorite characters move, jump, dance, and sing. In the process, they learn to solve problems, design projects, and express themselves creatively. The free app is now available from the App Store on iPad and from the Google Play store on Android tablet.

Through outreach efforts supported by the Verizon Foundation and the Ready To Learn Initiative, PBS member stations will extend the reach of PBS KIDS ScratchJr to children in underserved communities across the U.S. through programs and partnerships with Title I schools. Verizon will also be supporting the development of after-school activities and a weeklong summer camp. In addition, PBS stations will provide professional development training pilots to help teachers integrate PBS KIDS ScratchJr into classroom activities.

“We see coding as a new way for people to organize, express, and share their ideas,” said Mitchel Resnick, the LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research at MIT, head of the Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten group, and director of its Scratch team. “Coding is not just a set of technical skills, but a new type of literacy and personal expression, valuable for everyone, much like learning to write.”

To help ScratchJr learners get more out of the programming language, Media Lab alumna Professor Marina Umaschi Bers, director of the Developmental Technologies Research Group at Tufts University, and Resnick have co-authored “The Official ScratchJr Book: Help Your Kids Learn to Code,” released in November.

The app has been developed as part of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS Ready To Learn Initiative with funding from the U.S. Department of Education. Ready To Learn is a federal program that supports the development of innovative educational television and digital media targeted at preschool and early elementary school children and their families.