I have been home since October 31 as I sustained a concussion. I have limited screen time. I have been fortunate to know about lots of accessibility apps, so I continue to stay connected with my friends through voxer, and Siri is great at sending text messages reading them and composing and reading blogs for me (in fact I am using mostly speech to text to compose this blog post).
And so normally while I am embroiled in the stress of this time of year, I have actually been a witness to it; an outsider as I listen to my friends and my family and see their stress levels rise and rise. The pace at which everyone is moving is particularly frenetic at this time of year and at school, at this time of year, student anxieties seem to peak. I’ve always known this, but it is particularly more noticeble to me because I am observing it.
Let’s face it it is not the most wonderful time of the year for many many many students who may live in broken homes or stressful situations at home. This time of year also means increased levels of students threatening self harm. demonstrating anxiety and aggressive behaviors, and who are depressed.
I have been thinking a lot about this and something that my friend Stephanie Wilson, a psychologist in my district, and I have often talked about. The maker movement has so many benefits but one of them is certainly to relieve stress for students and contribute to better mental health. My friend Jennifer Bond, a teacher in Michigan has always been a champion for the extent to which making in the classroom has really amazing benefits for her students. And there are tons of resources out there about maker spaces in school libraries and classrooms across North America.
Yesterday Traci Bond, from my voxer group shared that one of her schools was engaged in A cardboard challenge. She shared a video of kids squealing with excitement as they demonstrated their cardboard games which ranged from whackamole, skeet ball, air-hockey car wash games.
What a wonderful idea for this time of year: not only will students engage in making games, which they could actually bring home as a gift for a loved one, but the making its self the joy of trial and error and then the playing of each other’s games would be a wonderful thing to do to add a playful element to any classroom.
It was Jennifer Bond who shared the resource, Imagination Foundation, which has cardboard challenges for Earth Day and other events throughout the year to celebrate creativity and imagination. The foundation is based on Cain’s Arcade. If you don’t know the story behind Cain’s Arcade, it is basically based on the true story of Caine Monroy, a 9-year-old boy who used cardboard to recreate an arcade inside his dad’s East LA auto parts shop in 2012. His only customer, Nirvan Mullick a filmmaker who went to the shop because he needed a door handle, saw Caine’s arcade and bought a fun pass. He was so impressed with Cain and his arcade that he had the idea to organize a flashmob for him which became a movie and is now a Foundation! You may be familiar with the story as the film went viral on the internet, on Twitter and Reddit and has inspired children all over the world (and many teachers) to use cardboard to create games, robots, carwashes, and other things. I know that I had seen the video, but I actually had no idea that Cain had inspired a global movement which continues to inspire teachers today!
I love what Nirvan Mullick, of Imagination Foundation Founder says in the video:
“A small gesture can change the life of a child…The idea is not only to give kids the tools to build the world they can imagine, but imagine the world that they can build”.
Cain’s dad attests to the fact that he is less shy, no longer stutters, and is doing better at school.
Check out the tweets from Ron Hubble at #sharkpride #cainesarcade to see what the kids created and how much fun they were having! While you are at it check out the imagination foundation and their collaboration with Google for “Science at Play” for some excellent ideas about how to bring science to life using cardboard, creativity, and imagination. Who knows, you may igniting a passion in students they never knew they had!
We will never be able to take away a child’s negative situation at home, nor am I suggesting that the such a complex disease as mental illness can be treated by creating and imagining, but what we can do is offer students the opportunity to experience joy and a little bit of fun. After all, ’tis the season to be jolly.