It's a silly gimmick, I thought when I first heard of Scratch. Teaching elementary school kids to program. Why would they need programming at that age?
In fact, when the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) requested computer curriculum for primary school kids, my first thought was again that kids that age don't have practical use for a computer, at least not that justifies the effort and expense in Africa. But as I prayerfully considered it, I realized this was a golden opportunity. The fact is, more and more, computers are saturating kids' lives, and Africa is not exempt. So if we are to teach them to use the computer in a godly way and not be blindly formed by whatever it tells them, we have to start early. "You know, programming would be just the thing for that," I realized. It would demystify the machine for them, showing them that computers really are only as good as the instructions given to them. They would understand early on how to use it to its full advantage, and get plenty of clear examples of its limitations. Furthermore, Scratch offers ways to integrate with other subjects and even bring older and younger children together. Fourth graders can write an interactive storybook which the second graders can read. Fifth graders can make motion-involved games to illustrate physics to the fourth graders. And all along the way, we can teach them how we too are programmed, and so we had better pick our programmer wisely!
You can play with Scratch for free, too at scratch.mit.edu!