Caine’s Arcadeon Aug 02, 2012 in Blog by Deb Hansen
Watching a popular video clip on YouTube typically causes me to laugh at a clever bit of irony or to groan at some ridiculous slapstick. More often than not, clips involve cute babies, funny pets, or somebody falling down and being embarrassed – far from intellectually challenging. I recently watched a video that was sentimental, but also thought provoking. Caine’s Arcade features Caine Monroy, a nine year old boy who lives in an East Los Angeles. To keep himself busy while his dad works in his used auto parts store, Caine spends months building an arcade out of cardboard boxes and miscellaneous found objects and dreams of the day when customers will come and play in his arcade. Nirvin Mullick just happens to come into the shop in search of an auto part, notices this little boy and his arcade, and becomes not only the first customer in Caine’s Arcade, but an advocate for creative kids everywhere. Remarkably, Nirvin is a film maker and skillful in the use of social media. He organizes a flash mob to bring customers into Caine’s Arcade and uses Facebook to create interest, which draws in television media and a lot of exposure through reddit. Nirvin films Caine before the surprise flash mob and captures his reaction when he sees the crowd and interacts with a throng of eager customers. The film was posted to the internet. (My viewing was hit # 3,086,106 on YouTube.)
It was heart-wrenching to watch the film as this determined little boy waits longingly as no customers come to see his fantastic home-made arcade. It was heart-warming to see what happened when a caring person used the power of social networking to make a child’s dream come true. I was really struck by what Caine was learning and the skills he was demonstrating as he built his arcade and set up his own business. He engaged in complex problems solving, planning, and use of higher order thinking skills in mathematics, geometry, physics, and language arts. He demonstrated creativity, determination, independence, originality, inventiveness, and entrepreneurial skills. These are the 21st century learning skills that educators, parents, business leaders, and community members wish for all students.
As the film ended, I wondered to myself, what will happen to this capable little boy? Who is going to support his learning beyond this experience? I was pleased to read on the Caine’s Arcade website that Nirvin’s efforts did not end the day his film was posted. Funds are being raised to help Caine go to college. The website invites you to, “… imagine what this kid can build with an engineering degree!” To date, $212,851 has been raised toward meeting the goal of $250,000.
I also wondered is Caine really that different than any other child who is encouraged to dream big and supported with enough cardboard, duct tape, and found treasures to express his or her vision of something grand? What about all the other children who would benefit from opportunities like this? Three days after the Caine’s Arcade short film was posted online, The Imagination Foundation was established to find, foster, and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in more kids like Caine. The foundation organized school pilot programs helping over 100 schools in 9 countries to build cardboard arcades. Project Based Learning Curriculum and Activity Kits were developed with the help of educators, and are being used by schools and parents to inspire students around the world. This fall, a worldwide Cardboard Challenge and a Global Day of Play is being organized. During the Global Day of Play, funds will be raised to help build capacity for the Imagination Foundation programs. The foundation hopes to build the first Imagination Maker Space in the Boyle Heights community where Caine’s Arcade is located. Another goal is to develop an online platform for identifying more children, sharing their projects and stories, and developing a network of mentorship and opportunities for more students.
While I am tremendously impressed with everything Nirvin Mullick and this foundation have accomplished and the scope of the efforts underway, questions still come to mind. How might systemic school reform initiatives create learning environments that bring out this wonderful capacity in students in schools across the country? Do the schools in my state enable students to express themselves in such an artistic and creative way or is precious learning time used to do something far less motivating and authentic? What are the leverage points that can be used to improve teaching practices and create learning environments that will bring out these talents in students in every classroom? This film and the volunteer work that followed after the film was posted shows that schools aren’t the only players in helping students to be successful. How can educators make better use of partnerships with community members? How might educators tap into the use of media and social networking to engage community members in the collective work of increasing students’ access to 21st century learning opportunities?
By the way, you are invited to visit Caine’s Arcade. “If you are in the LA area, come on down and play Caine’s Arcade – Caine loves customers!” If you plan to stop by, check the Caine’s Arcade Facebook page to see when Caine will be at the auto parts store to play a game of four-square with you. If you can’t go to LA, at least watch the film, check out the website, and see what questions come to your mind.
Note: West Wind Education Policy contributed a donation to support The Imagination Foundation.