The Diyode hackerspace in Guelph, ON, has a neat twist on the Arduino scene. Rather than teach people the basics by giving them a bare board, they have created a prototyping shield, the Diyode CodeShield, which allows them to learn software first:
We came to the conclusion a while ago that for the sake of keeping people, especially kids, enthusiastic, they should get their feet wet with code first. Once they are comfortable with that, then tackle the hardware. To provide the shortest possible route to the first moment of glory, we developed a new arduino shield built specifically for the process of teaching arduino code. By initially bypassing the electronics theory and postponing the breadboarding stage, it takes much of the frustration out of the learning process. Those things can come later, once they’ve already got a pocket full of victories.
Inputs include a switch, button, pot, rotary encoder, thermistor, photocell, and hall effect sensor. Outputs are a piezo buzzer, servo, RGB LED, Yellow LED, and a relay with screw terminals.
It sounds like Diyode is thinking about selling the boards and/or kits.