Sam Aaron comes to Town!

Just before half term we were privileged to have a visit from Sam Aaron the inventor of Sonic Pi. The videos show the day in full! They are well worth a watch! Thanks to Sam for giving his time (it was a day to live long in the memory) and of course to Marc and Mark whose sterling work set it all up.

Radio Interview with Sam Aaron by Radio Benton Park from Haltwhistle Film Project on Vimeo.

Sam and Mark Live from Haltwhistle Film Project on Vimeo.

Young Coders Explain Their Stuff from Haltwhistle Film Project on Vimeo.

Working with Sam from Haltwhistle Film Project on Vimeo.

Benton pupils spearhead digital revolution

Below is a copy of the report which was in Friday’s Evening Chronicle!!

A group of Tyneside primary school pupils are spearheading a digital revolution which is sweeping the nation’s classrooms.

Since September, studying the coding of computing has been mandatory in all state first and secondary schools, but ten youngsters from Benton Park Primary School have ventured further.

The children, aged 9 to 11, have taken part in a pioneering five-week project on the topic led by Marc McKiernan of the Haltwhistle Film Project, and are now preparing to pass on their knowledge to not only their peers across the region – but also teachers.

The scheme was put together by Bridge North East, funded by Arts Council England, which tries to connect children and young people with art and culture.

Leila d’Aronville, of Bridge North East, said: “It’s so important – not just at school – that children learn about coding.

“This programme can appeal to all children by focusing in on what they enjoy – it is really accessible to creative and mathematically minded children as it brings together arts, music, maths and science.

“We think it is right that they start young and believe that they are the best people to share their understanding with their peers and even teachers,”

Children at Benton Park Primary School took part in a pioneering five week project led by Marc McKiernan of the Haltwhistle Film Project


Marc, whose organisation aims to advance and improve education and training through encouragement of involvement in various forms of media, explained that although the pupils learned about coding to produce video and music, the language is universal and can be applied to any discipline.

He added: “The children all approached it differently. Some of them laid out the stuff carefully. Others dived in. But they all finished at the same time.

“If they had been told to do it one way, some would have got left behind and some would have finished in five minutes and been sat there twiddling their thumbs.”

Alice Witherow, Benton Park’s headteacher, said: “I can vaguely remember doing little bits of coding at secondary school but I was none the wiser. The children take to it so easily. It seems like second nature to them.”

She added: “It’s about coding, but it’s also about confidence. It’s about resilience and problem solving. They have to help each other to solve problems and then they have to teach it to somebody else.

“We know that if you teach something to somebody else you get better at it.”

Children at Benton Park Primary School took part in a pioneering five week project led by Marc McKiernan of the Haltwhistle Film Project



Here are the short films of the Coding Project. The project has run for 1 day a week over 5 weeks and now the children will start visiting other schools to share their knowledge and expertise.

The school intends to repeat the project again in the new year with the eventual aim of being able to run the projects themselves! The school would like to thank(once again) the 2 Marc’s, both McKiernan and Newport for their expertise, patience and assistance during the project. The films are excellent. We especially like the first film which really showcases the learning involved. Watch out for Tanhar’s magic moment!

Mr Shepherd

On Friday the Benton Park Live Coding Orchestra had their first performance. Everyone did a great job. There were visuals created using Scratch, a programming tool from MIT Ed in Boston, and music made using Sonic Pi, a program written by Sam in Cambridge. A Couple of weeks ago Mark Newport and I went down to Cambridge and met Sam and his boss at a conference to launch the new Sonic Pi 2, which allows live coding. That is, creating the code at the same time as the music is coming out of the speakers. Is the Raspberry Pi a musical instrument? Pretty much so.

Several performers had technical problems (there were hundreds of connections in the set up) but everyone stayed calm and quietly tried to fix whatever their particular problem was – Well done.

Right from the start of the project everyone has been very good at problem solving practically: a wire; a socket; a crash; and horrid note or a wrong colour. It’s been great fun so far for Mark and Marc.

I thought the overall impact was terrific – very spacy, and that the sounds and music had moments when they really worked together well. This was the first performance, and we’ll all get better at making the whole event work so that everything is making a difference all the time. We can also start to put in some sounds we record ourselves (as soon as Mark or I figure out which directory to put them in)

The next step is to take a simplified set up to other schools and do performances followed by training other children and teachers how to enter the world of the Raspberry Pi computer.

We have a job to do next week, which is sorting out the boxes which are probably rather full of the wrong wires and other bits and pieces. Also there is a Raspberry Pi camera to fix up, which will give us some other options for visuals during performances.