Sunday, December 6, 2015

Why Teachers like Caine's Arcade (and it's not because of STEM)

     Caine's Arcade is a phenomenon in the innovative educational circles.  The video, about a young boy in Los Angeles who creates an "arcade" at his father's auto shop using only cardboard boxes and other items he finds, has captured teachers' imaginations at the prospect of passion-based learning for students.  The story is heartwarming; Caine pours his creative passion into making something he loves, shows it to a complete stranger, and soon an entire community rallies around the boy.  The echoes of this story include educational movements in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), Genius Hour projects, Project/ Problem-based learning, and Passion-based learning.

     Teachers are scrambling to provide similar learning experiences for students by allowing them to choose their passion and learn everything they possibly can about a topic.  After all, teachers are a passionate bunch themselves and pour everything they have into bringing powerful learning experiences for their students. We seem to be on to something, too, with all the emphasis on non-traditional subjects like STEM and coding being funded and made a priority at the state level.  Grants and resources are popping up everywhere for teachers to create makerspace-type environments in their classrooms.  And the research says it's a good thing for kids.
     While all that is good and worthwhile, I'd like to to believe that the reason teachers love Caine's Arcade so much has nothing to do with STEM, Genius hour, or anything like that.  I want to believe teachers love Caine's Arcade because of this guy:

Nirvan Mullick, Filmmaker of Caine's Arcade
That's right.  He's the stranger that visits Caine and plays his arcade for the first time, inspiring the film and the desire to tell Caine's story.  He's the real reason there's a maker movement spreading like wildfire throughout American education.  He's also the inspiration for teachers in the movie.

You see, Nirvan brings an element to Caine's life that may have been missing- a chance to affirm his passions publicly and to inspire Caine to continue down this passion path.  Honestly, that's how I envision to role of our teachers- the people that recognize, affirm, and inspire kids to do great things.  The people that go the extra mile to publicly lift up a child in their passion and learning.  Don't we all want to be that person, or at least have a person like that rooting for us?

   Maybe that's the real story here- who do you have rooting for you, lifting you up, affirming what you are doing as valuable, important, and worthwhile?  Who reveals your purpose in every child's life?

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