Coding Is A Hoot: Owls are Alive with Code at Coxheath Elementary, Coxheath, NS

Coding a stuffy

Owls have a long association with wisdom and learning. Often you'll find them represented as classroom decorations and all-knowing characters in classic children stories like Winnie The Pooh. Many schools use the 'wise old owl' as a mascot or emblem, but few share the ability to bring these inanimate symbols of learning to life. Especially those in the fourth grade. That is until, master Scratcher, Nora Shaheen decided it was time to stretch her wings and hack a stuffie.

Nora Shaheen, grade 5 student at

Coxheath Elementary, was intrigued

with the idea of adding some

hardware to her coding projects after

having the chance to create a Makey

Makey Piano in her school’s

Makerspace last season. So, this

year when Principal Trevor Leblanc

encouraged Nora to create a project

in the Makerspace she knew right

away what she wanted to do: an

interactive Scratch Makey Makey


Then, it was just a matter of

deciding on the topic and where to

begin. Nora has a great

understanding and love of coding in

Scratch – so, as co-program Director

of Brilliant Labs, we talked about

what else she would like to

incorporate into the project – and

the answer was ‘stuffies’ (stuffed

animals) and in particular, she had

two tawny owl stuffies and was

willing to donate one to her school


Nora wanted to be able to teach others about the tawny owl – and decided to make the owl itself interactive by connecting it to the Makey Makey. The project was off and running. Nora started by researching facts

about the tawny owl and then recorded each fact as a separate sound clip using Scratch. Then she created an owl sprite in Scratch it was a great way to incorporate her art skills. After, Nora began writing the code (see below).

Now she was ready to start transforming her stuffie. Nora carefully opened the body of the owl to insert the wires. After, she sewed the Velostat conductive fabric conductive fabric on for buttons. The wires were then connected to the Makey Makey to complete the circuit.

We asked Nora about her project:

Why did you choose this project?

I already knew how to use Scratch. I have an account and have made many games and projects. So, I wanted to do something with the Makey Makey and I thought it would be cool if I could make something people could touch too. I really wanted to use the Makey Makey again – the last time we only got to make something with gummies. To incorporate the ground wire into the project, Nora fed

the wire through a pen attachment. To make the buttons interactive now you simply touch them with the tip of the pen.

What did you learn?

I learned a lot about the Tawny Owl. I also learned how to sew and add buttons

to make it react when the buttons were


What was the hardest part of the project?

Sewing the buttons was the

hardest part. The coding was

easy, the sewing was trickier.

We had to use a curved needle

so the thread could be sewn

through the stuffie.

What was the best part?

It was really fun testing the owl. I

was running wires inside the owl

(after I removed a lot of stuffing)

and so I had to keep testing that

it worked every time I moved the

owl. I played the sound clips a


Would you do it again?

Yes, I would do it again. It was

lots of fun and I really liked it.

Nora will be demonstrating and

sharing her project with other

students in her school.

I am very confident that because of this clever & interactive project every student at Coxheath Elementary will know several facts about the tawny owl. This was Nora’s first self directed project in the Makerspace but I’m sure it won’t be her last.

Featured Posts