Table of Contents


Computer Programming Across the Curriculum

A Way to Introduce the Foundational Language of Cyberspace and the Digital Age

  1. Create something other than a square. Change the numbers in the computer program just tried to make the turtle draw different shapes, such as triangles, hexagons and octagons. Do these variations a couple of times.
  2. Print out your finished Web Turtle picture.
  3. Copy your programming instructions in the web turtle language and paste it into a word processor. Save your file and print it out. Could you copy the image into Word and print out both the computer program and its output, the picture?
  4. Staple any multiple sheets together to hand-in to your instructor.
  5. In class, copy and paste your program into an email message to a class partner who should copy from email and paste into their Web Turtle web programming page to see it work.

Scratch Scratch is free and this page provides the links to download versions for the Mac, Linux and Windows operating systems. It extends Logo from a text command driven system to a simple graphical interface in which multimedia elements and actions are assembled like snap-together Lego building blocks, blending animated images, sound and video. It is perhaps the best of class choice for primary grades through middle school for a free introduction to computer programming. The graphic novel Super Scratch Programming Adventure!: Learn to Program By Making Cool Games
by The LEAD Project is an excellent starting point for this learning which is available in both paper and Kindle editions (half the price and available on all platforms).

It is a free downloadable programming application, created especially for those age 8 and older, that allows anyone to create their own animated stories, video games and interactive artworks. First made available on May 15, 2007, this "drag and click together" type of composition parallels the design of the programming composition model used by the Lego WeDo and NXT Mindstorms languages and incorporated into the Lego Robotics competition. Many examples of applications written by kids in Scratch can be found at Squeakland (


Python, a free language to download, may be best used with middle grades and up, but younger students have been able to work with it as well, as the books below indicate.

A number of free and commercial books are available to support this learning. "Snake Wrangling for Kids: Learning to Program with Python" is a book for 8 year olds and older that is free to print or can be bought already printed and bound online (e.g., See the Snake Wrangling book review by by Mark Frauenfelder. Other books include Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming by Jason R. Briggs and Hello World! Computer Programming for Kids and Other Beginners by Warren Sande and Carter Sande.

“Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python” is a also free (as in, open source) and a free eBook (as in, no cost to download), "Each chapter gives you the complete source code for a new game, and then teaches the programming concepts from the example. “Invent with Python” was written to be understandable by kids as young as 10 to 12 years old, although it is great for anyone of any age who has never programmed before. The second edition has revised and expanded content, including a Pygame tutorial to make games with graphics, animation, and sound."

A list of many other Python resources is available:

Javascript and Seaside

At a slightly higher level of skills, many web page creators are inserting free javascript programs directly into their web pages or building highly interactive web applications with Seaside.

The ability to run javascript programming language is built in to most web browsers. Numerous sites are available for teaching the basics of javascript. Western Carolina University now teaches Javascript in its Computer Science 130 course. Javascript skills were essential in creating the thousands of online calculators at Martindale's site. For more, search the web and libraries for "javascript" and "javascript tutorial" to find further helpful information on the topic of javascript programming.

The best and most complete online learning environment for learning Javascript is found in Khan Academy's Computer Science tutorials. This programming can be learned and done totally online without downloading and installing any computer application.


There are other good beginner programming resources as well, which are expensive compared to free, but excellent and within reach of many school budgets. Some involve significant community support and are widely used. Over ten-thousand teams from around the world participate in team competitions which use programming and robot systems to directly involve K-12 students in different age level divisions. There are primary grades, 4th-8th grades and high school divisions.

One of the most famous is FIRST League, for children ages 9-14. A new theme is created for the competition each year, which have included climate change, energy, oceans and many more. As seen in the picture on the right, the robotic playing field mat and Lego bricks are used to created a 4' by 8' creative play space to try out various programs designs for the robot. (Clicking the picture leads to a more detailed story.) This space is also used to compete in time trials to show how well their robot designs have been programmed to carry out a range of tasks. Teams must also research the topic and prepare a skit or presentation that describes a solution for the theme of the year, and demonstrate to judges their teamwork based problem solving skills.




Chapter Parent Frame  |  Version 1.20 Updated 1/29/2013 |  Page author: Houghton