Processing for Kids : Part 5

Setup and Draw:  Teaching a 12-Year Old to Do Something Creative with Processing

Part Five:   Discovery Night

After eight weeks of work, Elonzo’s game was completed and he presented it this week at Discovery Night. Discovery Night gives each student who participated in the Spark program a chance to present their project and talk about the experience they had with their mentors. Elonzo’s game was well received and lots of people played it, especially kids.


Initially, I began this mentorship with the idea that I could equip Elonzo with the skills necessary to code portions of this game by himself, but I’ve learned from this process that that was a fairly foolish notion. However, he was able to replicate basic tasks, such as image processing and sound design, and quickly caught on to simple programming principles and modified his code in original ways.


We let the process of making the game evolve from an instructor-student format to a collaboration; the game we ended up with contains portions that were developed by Elonzo, Arthur and me, and reflects our individual strengths and skill levels. Most importantly, the concept and content of the game was Elonzo’s—Arthur and I made suggestions and gave advice along the way, but the ideas were all his. The final game is fairly simple, yet includes aspects of ideas we tossed around over the two-month mentorship—all of Elonzo’s favorite Slasher film stars are featured, and it has a first-person shooter feel.

In hindsight (and certainly in future opportunities in which I find myself teaching creative) I should have focused initially on drawing with Processing. I think this is a crucial step to master before going into interactivity. It’s easy to overlook the amazing potential of 2d drawings created by Processing in favor of rushing into more intermediate or advanced topics. Analogous to traditional fine art students learning drawing before painting and sculpture, there are huge learning opportunities in sketching with Processing and printing those sketches; beginners can get quick results, learn rudiments of programming, and have physical versions of their work that can be critiqued in a traditional setting and exhibited easily.

Here’s the code for Elonzo’s game, entitled “Worst Nightmares.” We also exported it as an applet and can be played online here. You can also download the sketch here.

>>> Read Part 1

Teaching & article by JD Pirtle.
I feel that artists should lead humanity through the creation and utilization of the most current and yet-to-be-invented technologies and processes