At the end of the school year when I’m low on supplies and running out of inspiration for new lessons, I show my favorite video to my elementary art students. It’s uplifting and inspires them to create something from nothing.
Caine’s Arcade is an 11 minute video by Nirvan Mullick. It chronicles the story of 9-year-old Caine Monroy whose dad owns a used auto parts store in East LA. To occupy himself Caine builds an elaborate arcade from cardboard boxes, tape and found objects. He even makes his own T-shirt, business cards and tickets.
Every day, he tries to get passerby and customers to play his arcade games. Business is slow until Mullick becomes his first customer. Through social media Mullick spreads the word about Caine’s arcade. He organizes a flash mob and dozens of people go to Caine’s arcade to cheer him on and play his games.
It’s delightful to watch the emotions on Caine’s face as he builds his arcade and waits for customers. Caine uses engineering and problem-solving to make his arcade work and he persists even though he has no customers. It’s a great video to show in the classroom when discussing growth mindset.
I particularly enjoy watching the faces of my students as they experience Caine’s struggles and triumphs. We discuss the film afterwards and the kids always have plenty to say.
To extend the lesson, I give the kids scrap cardboard, scissors, tape and glue and let them make their own arcade!
After Caine’s Arcade was released people donated over $242,000 to a college scholarship fund for Caine. In addition, Mullick founded the nonprofit Imagination.org whose goal is to foster creativity in kids everywhere. Once a year the organization promotes the Global Cardboard Challenge & Day of Play.
What videos do you use to inspire your students?
Our recent blog post, CARDBOARD: An Art Teacher’s Best Friend is a compendium of all things cardboard. It covers cardboard use in art history, cardboard architecture and furniture, contemporary cardboard artists and cardboard lesson ideas by grade!
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