If you have a fifth grader you’ve probably already invested in an Xbox, PS, DS or other game-type system. Online gaming is all the rage in today’s generation of students.
The Neuse Charter School fifth grade teaching team is capturing that gaming passion, but putting an old-school twist on it in a project that truly makes learning fun.
Kristin Tyson, Neuse Charter School fifth grade language arts teacher, found a story about a young boy in California that spent his summer vacation at his father’s auto body shop. To help the time pass, Caine Monroy started making a fully-functioning arcade out of old boxes and recyclable items he found around his father’s shop. The boy’s summer project turned into a national phenomenon in which people from across the U.S. were inspired to be more creative and positive.
“We at Neuse Charter want to inspire students to think outside the box,” said Chris Kiser, fifth grade social studies and science teacher. “In this case we want them to think outside of a box.”
Nearly 70 fifth grade students formed roughly 15 teams to brainstorm, develop, create and play their own arcade. The school was able to help with the project saving and recycling many boxes from computer and new equipment purchases, but students also brought various sized boxes from home along with construction materials and small prizes.
Kiser explained that while the project doesn’t necessarily fit into an academic lesson plan the students have a 30-minute period each day called Cougar Time in which they are able to work on their venture.
“Cougar Time is a time for remediation or to catch up on schoolwork or homework,” Kiser said. “For those students who are caught up on their work we afford them time to work on their cardboard creations. With less than 30 minutes a day in Cougar Time students do not want to miss working in their groups.”
While you will not see Super Mario Brothers or FIFA 16, students did come up with ways to play skee ball, hockey and even created a claw machine.
Greyson Dunn, age 9, and Gregory Johnson, age 11, have been working on the project for seven weeks and created a foosball game as part of the overall arcade.
“We selected this game because of the challenge in creating it,” Dunn said. She explained that her team had to adjust the design when the store didn’t have all the supplies they needed per their original plan. “In the end I think it worked out pretty well.”
Johnson enjoyed working in teams on the project. “Everyone has different input they can add,” he said. “So it is unique to each team.”
For the teachers this project meant watching students grow above and beyond regular curriculum. “This is brain-based learning at its best,” said Kiser. “Students learn by doing and take ownership and pride in their accomplishments.”
Wendy Dunn, parent, was excited to hear what her fifth grader was working on in school.
“It was refreshing to see Greyson come home with such enthusiasm for project-based learning,” said the mother of two NCS students. “I loved hearing about how she was collaborating with teammates and sharing ideas. This was such a positive experience and wonderful idea.”
The idea isn’t just meant to be shared among the fifth grade though, in fact the arcade will be unveiled to a broader audience shortly after completion.
Kindergarten through fourth grade NCS students will have the opportunity to sign up and play 30-minute time slots on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016 before parents are invited in to see and play the games.
Johnson wants the younger students to know that it’s possible to do anything, “Even if you only have cardboard,” he said.
Dunn seconded the sentiment. “I hope other elementary students learn they can do anything if they put their mind to it,” she said.
“This project is a messy and long process,” said Kiser. “This level of creativity allows students to be expressive across subject disciplines. Too often school is about reciting facts. It has been enjoyable, as a teacher, to see students just be children.”
While the arcade will be torn down after Oct. 14 and sent home with different team members, the project itself will take on a new life. Beginning in mid-October, students will be introduced to computer programming software developed by MIT students and professors called Scratch.
“During this next phase of creation students will take their cardboard creation arcade ideas and turn them into video arcade games,” Kiser said. “This is a big job because the fifth grade teachers and students will be learning to use computer code. This will be growth experience for everyone.”
But thanks to a 9-year-old boy on the West Coast, these North Carolina students see the possibility.
“Caine’s story inspired me to believe in myself and be confident in who I am,” said Dunn. “Hard work pays off!”