Cardboard Arcade fosters students' creativity
There was cardboard everywhere in the Philip Simmons Middle School gymnasium on Dec. 20. Strewn about in an arts and crafts exhibition, all ages of middle schoolers ran from each display. There were games all around, like bowling, darts, skee-ball, and slingshot sharpshooting. Every game was created by students at PSMS out of cardboard and their imagination.
The third annual Cardboard Arcade was in full swing, and at its height, it looked closer to a cardboard carnival than an arcade.
“The first year we started Philip Simmons Middle School, three years ago, we just wanted to do a celebration of the Maker Movement, and really celebrate engineering and design and creating and building without any set rules in place,” said Principal Charla Groves about the event’s beginning.
“We just had kids come up with a game and make it,” she added. “They can create their own version of the game, in their head, or go old-school. We just wanted to celebrate their creativity.”
Tade Gresh and Jáqez Singleton built a variant of skee-ball where a player is given three chances to throw a tin foil ball into one of three holes, each more challenging than the last. “It’s kind of like skee-ball, but you throw it,” Gresh explained. “We first made actual skee-ball and it broke, so we decided to make this one.”
Gresh and Singleton both expressed interest in making a basketball game for next year’s event.
Close to their display was Ta’keyl Evans, who was asking participants to guess the song that he played on his laptop. The songs he played ranged from Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” to “Goofy Goober Rock” from The Spongebob Squarepants Movie. In his cardboard box were prizes for those who knew the tunes.
Eighth graders Madison Jaret and Emma Etherigge took their inspiration from an old favorite game, and found creative ways around a school rule. “We decided to do darts,” said Etherigge. “We filled balloons with glitter, so when people pop them, the glitter goes everywhere, but darts are considered weapons at the school, so we sharpened pencils.”
Her partner added that they “decided, since, at the carnivals that you go to at county fairs and stuff, they have balloons that you can pop and get rewards, but this attracts more of a female audience because of the glitter.”
In addition to the Maker Movement, a DIY philosophy that emphasizes invention and active learning, the event was inspired by “Caine’s Arcade,” a short film about a child who built a cardboard arcade in his garage. It lead to the creation of a non-profit called Imagination.org that attempts to nurture creativity in kids. Groves believes that her school’s iteration of the cardboard arcade has promoted that same energy.
“I just really love that it’s just whatever they envisioned in their heads and they’re proud to represent their work,” she adds. “We’ve had kids that aren’t afraid to fail. They test it out, if it doesn’t work, they revamp, they make a change. And everybody comes together to celebrate one another.”
According to Groves, the only rule they put on the Cardboard Arcade is that teachers are required to assign no homework in the week leading up to the event. Everything else is limited by the individual’s imagination.
“I think just saying ‘make whatever you can think, no limitations, come up with whatever you want.’ We do not put any rules in place for them,” she said. “We don’t want them to say ‘well, what do you want us to do? What should it look like?’ I say, ‘go create. We’ve got materials for you, we’ve got this place where you can work.’”
Students from Cainhoy Elementary and Philip Simmons Elementary were also invited to play. “We invite the fifth grade from Cainhoy [Elementary] because they come to us as sixth graders next year and we want to give them a preview of what to expect,” said Groves. “We also have invited kindergarten and fourth grade from Philip Simmons Elementary; kindergarten because they love to play, and fourth grade because they come to us next year.”