Caines Arcade Essay Topics

Over the weekend I showed my three-year-old daughter Caine’s Arcade, the 11-minute online video about a boy who creates arcade games out of cardboard boxes at his dad’s auto parts store in Los Angeles.

Riding to school this morning, I asked her if she liked it.

Caine Monroy, creator of the most famous cardboard arcade on the planet.

“I didn’t like it,” she told me. “I loved it, daddy!”

She’s not alone. Since filmmaker Nirvan Mullick posted his film about Caine’s arcade three weeks ago, it has been viewed more than five million times, attracting praise from Oprah and coverage from The New York Times.

The scholarship fund that Mullick launched on the Caine’s Arcade website is up to nearly $200,000—and the Goldhirsh Foundation has pledged to match these donations dollar-for-dollar. As my friend Andy Isaacson reported on The New Yorker’s culture blog last week, the video has inspired countless kids to undertake (and film) their own DIY creations, motivated the Exploratorium science museum to transport Caine’s arcade to San Francisco for an exhibit, and has even prompted grown men to post videos of themselves crying as they watch nine-year-old Caine show off his mini-basketball and soccer games, ticket machines, “fun passes,” and other homemade delights.

Watching Caine in action, it’s hard not to feel inspired by his creativity and enthusiasm. In the film, Mullick recounts how awestruck he was the first time he saw Caine crawl behind one of the cardboard games to push tickets out of a slit, just like the awards you get at a real arcade. “This kid’s a genius,” he says. Others seem to agree: M.I.T. has invited Caine to participate in a summer program, and a professor at UCLA has offered to customize an academic track for the kid.

Caine is clearly a very clever and creative kid. But I think viewers feel so moved by his story because he’s not so exceptional. Caine’s Arcade strikes a chord in us because we see in Caine the kind of unbridled imagination we had as children, but that too few of us—kids included—let loose these days.

Yet one of the many treats of Mullick’s film is that it shows the kinds of conditions that help kids unleash their creative potential, echoing some lessons we’ve covered in the past on Greater Good, including our recent “Eight Tips for Fostering Flow” and these tips for fostering creativity in kids. Here are three of the most important ones.

1. Give them lots of unstructured time. This time of year, many parents are sweating summer camp choices for their kids. But this is how Caine spent his last summer vacation: accompanying his dad to work every day at a used auto parts store in East Los Angeles.

Some parents might see this as negligent, even depressing. Caine saw it as an opportunity. With long summer days to fill, he set to work inventing his arcade and building it out of the cardboard boxes stacked up in the store’s storage room. As his dad worked in an office at the back, Caine let his imagination run wild, eventually taking over the front of the store with his growing collection of games. With no play dates or lessons scheduled for him, and no computer at his disposal, he had to find a way to keep himself entertained.

For families who can afford it, there are lots of nice things for kids to get out of summer camp—new friends, swimming lessons, kickball. But Caine’s Arcade illustrates what can happen when we give kids the time and space to nurture their creative whims.


2. Give them the resources they need for creativity. This doesn’t mean expensive toys or supplies—in fact, it’s often just the opposite. For Caine, the key was a reserve of cardboard boxes and some tools that might seem inappropriate or even dangerous for kids: packing tape, scissors, staplers, calculators, markers.

Caine came up with creative uses for these everyday office supplies—and his dad, to his infinite credit, let Caine liberate all of these supplies from their “adult” functions and repurpose them for his arcade.

3. Give them the support and encouragement for their creative projects (even if they seem kinda crazy). As you’ve probably surmised by now, the unsung hero of Caine’s Arcade is Caine’s father, George, who lets Caine act on his love of arcade games, even if it means co-opting the front of George’s store and potentially confusing some customers. When Caine wants to buy a claw machine for his arcade, George encourages him to build his own—then marvels at what the kid comes up with.

George’s affection and enthusiasm for Caine’s project undoubtedly helped it come to be. And this seems to be a trend: When George recalls early in the film how Caine likes to take apart his toys, he’s obviously pleased by his son’s curiosity, not annoyed by the mess it makes.

I hope that Caine continues to grow his arcade and (with George’s continued encouragement) launches many more cardboard adventures, and I hope the success of Caine’s Arcade opens up new doors for Caine and other kids like him. Yet I also hope that the message we take away from Caine’s Arcade isn’t just that there’s a talented and endearing kid hidden in East LA, but that there are ways we can encourage the Caine who might be living under our own roof.

Greater Good wants to know: Do you think this article will influence your opinions or behavior?

 

Here are some Curriculum and Activity Kits created by educators who have been using Caine’s Arcade to teach STEM/STEAM, entrepreneurship, creative writing, social media and more. Or create your own and share with our Inspired Educators Facebook Group.

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ACTIVITY KITS: 

Cardboard Math Arcade 

Description: Watch the ‘Caine’s Arcade’ short film and build arcades
Author: Liliris
Grade Level: 4th grade
Subjects:  Comprehension, Planning, Design, Building

Download


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Caine’s Arcade Super Pack
(Includes 4 Extension Activities: Story Problems, Name Poems, T-shirt Design, Interview Caine)

Description: Watch film, build arcades, do story problems, write an acrostic name poem, design a t-shirt, interview Caine.
Author: Kim Sandusky
Grade Level: 3rd grade
Subjects: Comprehension, Vocabulary, Geography, Design, Math, English, Poetry, Music, Journalism, Communication

Download


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Geometry Game

Description: Work in teams to design games exploring Geometry concepts.
Grade Level: 7-12
Author: Marc Humpert
Works at: MIND Research Institute
Subjects: Geometry, Game Design, Teamwork

Download


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Miniature Golf Game

Description: Make cardboard games to explore reflections and isometries.
Grade Level: 7-12
Author: Marc Humpert
Works at: MIND Research Institute
Subjects: Geometry

Download


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OTHER FUN HANDOUTS:

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MORE IDEAS:

“Be Caine for a Day” Diary

  • Activity – Have students write about what it would be like to be Caine for a Day.  (Example questions – What do you think about when you build your games?  What kind of cool things do you do on your free time?)
    ** You can even teach your students a little about bookmaking by binding all of their entries together.
  • Materials – Paper/notebook

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Pizza Marble Mazes

  • Activity – Students design and build mazes/labyrinths using pizza boxes and simple materials. Play each others’ games and record the highest scores/fastest times.  Celebrate with a pizza party.  (You can use marble mazes to teach teamwork, design, fractions, food groups, nutrition, etc.)
  • Materials – Pizza boxes, popsicle sticks, glue, marbles

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Make Your Own Documentary

  • Activity – Explain to students what  a documentary is.  Show them the film, and ask them to think about someone or something they would like to make a documentary about.  Have them shoot a mini-documentary by themselves or in groups and have an in-class film festival. (Some questions to ask:  What is a documentary?  Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?  What’s your favorite fiction/non-fiction story/film and why? What makes a story interesting?)
  • Materials – Paper, pencil, video camera, camera phone

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Build Your Own Creation!

  • Activity – Have students build their own arcade game, toy, or creation out of recycled material.  (Example questions – What would you like to make?  What will you need in order to make your creation?  Make a sketch of your creation.)
    ** If your students are learning geometry, you can have them use concepts from geometry to build their games.
  • Materials – Ask students to bring in materials they will need to build their creation.  You can also take a look at our list of suggested materials.

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Create Your Own Poem/Song

  • Activity – Have students write a poem/song like in the ‘Caine’s Arcade’ film.  Do an acrostic poem:  write your name from top to bottom, then think of one word for each letter that describes you or your creation.  Have a class performance!
  • Materials – Paper, pencil, optional: musical instruments and video camera
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Caine’s Arcade Math Problems
  • Activity –  Create math problems for students using references to Caine’s Arcade. (Example questions – If Caine starts with 100 Fun Passes and only has 7 at the end of the day, how many did he sell?   A prize costs 250 tickets.  If one of the games lets you win 5 tickets at a time, what’s the minimum number of times you have to win the game to get the prize.  If Caine has a perfectly square piece of cardboard with a perimeter of 20 inches, what does each size measure?)
  • ** If your students are learning square roots, you can have them solve a few problems and then have them hit the “check mark” button to check “for security.”
  • Older students can write Caine’s Arcade math story problems for each other.
  • Materials – Math worksheets

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 Design Your Own Shirt

  • Activity –  Have students design a t-shirt for an imaginary business.  What does their business do or sell?  Who will buy/use their product?  What their company’s slogan or logo?   (They can also design a t-shirt to inspire others to do something, express who they are, or give as a gift to a friend or family member.)
  • Then have a shirt-decorating day.  Make sure they decorate the front and the back!
  • Materials – Paper, crayons, color pencils, optional: t-shirts, fabric markers, puffy paint

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Caine’s Arcade Geography

  • Activity – Have students locate Caine’s Arcade on a map.  Ask students a few geography questions. (Example questions – How many states do you have to cross to get to the arcade?  What are the names of the states? Discuss cities, states, countries & continents.  Have students talk about their favorite places and where they’d like to visit. Play “Pin-the-City-on-the-Country” (or -State)
  • Materials – Map of the US/World

 

 

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