All posts by jrushing

Abstraction & the Logical Journey of the Zoombini’s

Abstraction is another one of the Computational Thinking concepts we talk about during Computer Science classes.  It’s an important step  in creating a solution to a larger problem.  Abstraction is defined as —

“Focusing on what is important and ignoring what is unnecessary.”

In the puzzles we use as our core curriculum, many times students are given a lot of coding blocks and are asked to rearrange and remove any blocks aren’t needed.  The focus of these lessons is on debugging and the word abstraction is never mentioned in the directions or hints given within the puzzle.  I mention it, of course — but find that many of my students don’t really make the connection.

One of my favorite ways to talk about abstraction and have students practice this skill is by pacifying Arno, the almost omnivorous Pizza Troll using the program The Logical Journey of the Zoombini’s. 

In this logic game, students are asked to create the perfect pizza for Arno.  Each time you play the game he wants different toppings and you have to use the visual and verbal clues given to decide which toppings are “eewwwww GROSS” or which ones he likes.

Arno blocks the path so the Zoombini’s can not move on. In order for him to move, the user must use the pizza topping buttons to serve up the perfect pizza.

As I teach this lesson, I encourage my students to look closely at the pizzas that Arno has been served and what he does with them.  If he likes a topping, but wants MORE, he will save it for later.  (I explain to the kids that I will eat a pepperoni pizza  — but I really like pepperoni and sausage. They totally get this….)  If Arno, however despises a certain topping, he will throw it into the dump in front of him.

In this example, you can see that Arno is not fond of pineapple or mushrooms. He has thrown them into the dump. The other toppings he likes — so he has saved them for later. Can you decide what his PERFECT pizza is??

Using abstraction skills — we can tell that Arno is not at all interested in pineapple or mushroom.  As the pizza maker/programmer, I would ignore those toppings and not use them in my final recipe/algorithm.  The other toppings are all useful to me — since he likes them.  I would make a perfect pizza for Arno using peppers, pepperoni, and cheese.

HINT!!!  Presenting Arno with pizzas that only have one topping at a time is a critical act in determining what he likes.  He gives very vague comments if he doesn’t like an ingredient.

There is something there I don’t like!  Ewwww….Gross!

If you present a pizza with 3 toppings and only one is an ingredient he isn’t fond of — it’s not very easy to guess which one it is.

As the game levels progress — the student is introduced to two more pizza trolls — each with their own likes and dislikes.  The pizza machine also expands to produce an ice cream dessert with up to three different toppings.

In the harder levels, you will meet Arno’s friends — Willa and Shyler. Each have their own likes and dislikes.

It’s very helpful for students to have some sort of way to take notes and record data as they discover it.  A simple table would be great.  Here is one that I use with my students.  Click on the image to see full size and download.


Zoombini’s is available to play on STEAM (computer play) — or via the Apple App Store or Google Play

~Mr. Rushing


I teach Computer Science to some pretty amazing elementary kids.  Much of our time is spent doing lessons, puzzles, and activities from the curriculum.  We learn how to think through problems and find the most effective (and efficient) solution.  To do this, we start talking about five parts of computational thinking (Decomposition, Pattern Recognition, Abstraction, Algorithm Design, and Debugging) as early as Kindergarten.

Decomposition was the focus of this weeks Kindergarten lesson.  Decomposition is defined as breaking something into smaller parts.  With the “littles”, I introduced the idea with the following two websites from :  Shapes Construction and Tangrams.  Both of these sites use “smaller parts” to build and create a larger image.  Decomposition in reverse…. so to speak.  The students and I talked about all the pieces and parts that are needed to build a house.

A roof!  Doors!  We need WINDOWS!  You have to have a floor!

After our discussion, I opened the Shapes Construction site and we talked about the design that we needed to create.  The design had been broken into all of its smaller parts

and were listed at the bottom.  Our job was to put the design back together.  Boy — did they have fun!

After a few levels, the activity ramped up and students were asked to complete the design with out some of the lines.  They had to look at the “mirror” image and recreate it.  (We had a nice talk about symmetry and reflections.)

Adding to this lesson, I had the kids work on another activity in  This time we went to the Tangram activity.  The concept is very much the same — but this time the students needed to “debug” the shapes.  Many times the shape needed to be rotated to fit in the puzzle.  Students had to identify which shape was needed and then how to make it fit by using the tools to rotate it.  The first level was full of helps — each shape was it’s own color and the targets were clearly outlined.

The upper levels became a little more challenging.  First, all the shapes became the SAME color.  Then, much to the Kinders chagrin — they lost the outline of the targets.  After a couple of reminders that

“They are the smartest and most amazing kindergarteners EVER!!”

they decided that they could indeed do anything they tried……..and they did.

Awesome Sauce!!

During the last few lessons in Third Grade, we have been learning about Nested Loops.  A nested loop is a loop inside of loop.  We’ve used them in our lessons to move and collect things and to draw shapes and designs.

As an extension, we did the Awesome Sauce Challenge in Scratch.  Students were given nine blocks that they had to use in a program.  Each one must be used at least once.  They can re-use any block any amount of times.  They also have permission to change the variables in the blocks to make each one unique.  They were also encouraged to experiment with using Nested Loops.

The goal was to PLAY and CREATE a unique and amazing digital design — AWESOME SAUCE!!   Check out some of our sauciest creations!!

Check back again to see some more cool and awesome things the amazing Wysong Wolves are doing!

~Mr. Rushing

Webpage Revamp

I decided today to revamp this page and make it a little more user friendly for both viewers — and for me to update.

When you come here from now on — or if you click the title of the site (Create•Connect•Inspire) – you will be directed to this page.  This will be filled with blog posts containing announcement and photos and descriptions of cool things that students are doing in the Wysong Computer Science Classroom.

If you click on the KidsLinks tab at the top, you will be directed to the Webmixes that have been created and curated for our Wysong Students.

The Meet Mr. Rushing tab will take you a page that will provide information about me!  🙂

Check back often.  My goal is make this a great way for you to take a peek into the Computer Science classroom at Wysong Elementary