I assume you are one of the millions that are as inspired as I am by "Caine's Arcade," the endearing story of a boy who created his dream from the ground up - out of cardboard. Every time I watch these videos, I flash back to my own childhood, where I fashioned tents out of sticks and blankets, and sailed homemade boats in puddles. I flash forward to my students now, as I observe them engineer "houses wired with electricity" and "robots with solar system adaptations." Creativity is timeless. It is without age, gender or demographic. It can be executed independently or collaboratively. It promotes critical thinking and reflection. It magnetically connects people to people.
I showed "Caine's Arcade" to my own eight year old daughter and right away, she located a cardboard box and made her own arcade game. Seven months later, she is still refining it. She has adapted it for different age players and made homemade paper fortune tellers as prizes. The game never gets old in our house, especially for her friends and little brother.
I took a chance and took "Caine's Arcade" to another level. For our opening year professional learning, our faculty also created arcade games. We worked in cross-grade level teams using cardboard and random materials, fueled by our imagination and entrepreneurial spirit. Puppet theaters, obstacle courses and tossing games abounded. We celebrated our cardboard achievements, and bridged our experience to the new Bloom's Taxonomy and the Common Core. Indeed, we found many deliberate lines of connection between project-based learning and critical thinking. I encourage you to try this with your own staff. The lessons are manifold.
As the school year has unfolded, "Caine's Arcade" has taken on a life of its own. The children in our school are designing their own cardboard games, and I have even seen a game cooperatively designed by parents. The heart of the experience has been project-based learning employing the design / engineering cycle: plan, design, create, test and refine. This is exactly the critical thinking and cooperative team work our world needs. For example, a team of third grade students designed their own version of the "claw hook." They took pencils, secured them together and placed them in a narrow tube. When the pencils were lowered, they expanded; when the pencil were raised back into the tube, they contracted, and grasped the desired item. No one showed the children how to design this tool. It was truly their own ingenuity.
From time to time, I replay these videos for myself to reflect on the many learning lessons within them.
Children have infinite potential.
Play is a natural vehicle for learning.
Joy is most often found in simple things.
Give children the space to create and the time to grow.
Curiosity, imagination and creativity are timeless tools.
Asking children questions is more powerful than telling them things.
All children have basic needs, such as love and belongingness.
Never underestimate the power of one caring adult in a child's life.
Persistence, persistence, persistence pays off.
Expect the unexpected.
We need to strive to make learning transformational.