This year’s Cardboard Arcade started off much like the last two, with a whole lot of cardboard, excitement and chaos. This would be our third year doing the Cardboard arcade (a post about our arcade last year can be found here ) and one would think it would be a well oiled machine by this point, however, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t convince my grade partners to change it up and up the ante. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We started things off with a video as a provocation courtesy of the Caine’s Arcade. We brought all 64 grade three students together, watched the video and then brainstormed cardboard game ideas. It is funny that I have watched this video so many times, but when you watch it with students who are watching it for the first time, through their eyes, it is so exciting and heart warming.
The kids hit the ground running and were excited to put together their games. For the next few weeks, it was a mess of cardboard, duct tape, glue and paint. There were tears when things didn’t work as planned, kids having to go back to the drawing board because the games weren’t hitting the expectations of “is your game sturdy, functional, and eye-catching?” For some they had to learn the hard lesson of adding more and more duct tape might not be the solution. When it came to game building, I always stepped back because I thought it was important for them to try to problem solve. While I might guide, I never just gave them the solution. Funny enough, sometimes their solutions, I might not have agreed with, actually worked out just fine.
The extra piece I decided to add on this year was that I would have my twenty grade 5-6 coding club kids build their own cardboard arcade games and join us. This would mean the total game count in the gym would be 84 games which would involve some serious organization to not only fit them all, but also have it set up so their games could actually be played. The other added challenge was we decided to open up the arcade to the whole school this year. In the past we had only allowed the primary grades to participate. However, I had many upper elementary students talk to me about how they wanted the opportunity to come in and play, so after some discussion with my grade partners, we decided to give it a shot. We would somehow get all 412 students through the arcade in one day.
The day of the Cardboard arcade would end up being the 2nd last day before our March break. We brought all 84 kids to the gym and got things set up, hoping we’d get through this day. Amazing enough, it went awesome. Before any group came in, I would gather them in the entry to explain how these were cardboard games so please be kind and careful. As well, with the upper grades, I reminded them the importance of being kind with their words. While a game might not look that great, saying it out loud where a grade 3 student might hear them, would be disheartening so to be aware of that.
The thing was we didn’t need to worry about this. Honestly, when the grade five and six classes came in, they were just so excited to come in and play, they became like little kids. They played games, laughed, challenged each other but the greatest thing they did was tell the grade 3 students how fun their game was, what an awesome idea they had for their games. The looks on many of those grade 3 students’ faces is not one I will forget too soon. So often we will not take chances and try things out because we are trying to ensure the kids are okay, that no potential problems will occur, that no one’s feelings get hurt and such. The thing was that we were looking for problems that didn’t happen, everyone that came was just so excited to be there that they had a blast. The gym was full of fun and laughter all day.
The one thing that we did learn was that it was a very long day for our kids, by the end of the day after being in the gym for the whole day, they were exhausted. This will be something that we need to revisit next year when we start planning again.
For me, this year’s arcade memory comes courtesy of one of my grade six coding club boys. His story is like many, he doesn’t shine when it comes to school. Reading and writing are not his strengths, he is not the most popular, not very artistic or the most athletic. He is quiet and shy, quite content to hide in the background. When we started the cardboard arcade, he asked if he could work on his game at home because he had this idea he wanted to try out. I agreed because I knew I could trust that he would do this on his own. The day of the arcade came and he and his mom brought his game to the gym and I won’t lie, he blew me away. He had built a cardboard pinball machine game. His mom explained he had spent many, many hours working on it. He had researched, built many versions that didn’t work, had spent hours on Youtube learning how to put the pieces of his pinball game together. But the end result was honestly fantastic, I know I could never had done it.
That day, at cardboard arcade, he had so many students flock to his game. So many of his classmates were impressed, asking him questions, telling him how cool his game was. It was his opportunity to shine, and while he didn’t exactly revel in it, I knew by the smile on his face all day, that he was happy. And for a kid that has had the road he has had, this for me was worth it. All the challenges in organizing, trying to fit the coding club kids in, didn’t matter because he had this positive memory which made it totally worth it.Another cardboard arcade went down in the books and as I walked down the hall I could hear the younger grades going, “Well when I do cardboard arcade in grade 3, this is how I am going to do my game” and I won’t lie, it made me smile.