Saturday, June 02, 2012

Caine's Arcade in the Library

I had a hard time deciding how to end my time with kids in the library. I am excited to go back to the classroom, but leaving Riverside and the people there was hard. I feel lucky to have been part of the Riverside community.   I thought back to my four years in the library.  I started off my time in the library thinking hard about the spaces for kids, reading and learning. And I redesigned various spaces several times based on evolving goals. I wanted the kids to see the library as a place for more than just checking out books. I wanted them to see it as an energizing place for learning, one that was full of tools and possibilities.  I had big yearly goals, visions for 21st Century Learners, visions based on professional reading and pieces I shared with kids to help expand their view of what the library could be.

I started my time in the library creating a space that welcomed kids and learning.  We shared great books and laughed together a lot. We learned about favorite authors, enjoyed surprise endings and read and read and read.  We added computers and iPads, iPods and ebook readers.  We learned that there were so many tools for learning as we spent time using building toys, games and cameras.  By the middle of this years, students were pretty independent.  They came to the library with an idea of how to spend their time. We usually started our time together with a book, a new website, a game or a new tool I wanted to share. Then kids could choose how to spend their learning time. It looked simple, but it took years to build an environment that welcomed this kind of learning.  I loved standing back and looking at the variety of things kids were doing.

So, as we moved into the last week of school, I couldn't decide how to end our time together.  My gut was to read a good book. How could I go wrong with that? But I wanted to give them more than that.  I knew that I wanted to give them 20 minutes of choice time during their last library class -- they had come to expect it and to use it well. It was important to them as learners and there were really no choices they could make that didn't support their learning in some way.

I finally decided to end the year with each class by sharing the video of Caine's Arcade. Our art teacher had shared it with me and it had inspired us both.  It seemed the perfect way to end the year and our four years together in the library.  Better than a book, it was a message that I thought matched all that I'd been trying to say with our work in the library over four years.

So, I shared the video in the first 10 minutes of our last library classes.  Kids were glued.  They didn't move or make a sound. They smiled as big as Caine smiled as they watched the customers appear in the video. And they were inspired.  I told them at the end of the movie, that I had picked this to show them to kick off their summer. That I hoped they had a summer filled with with reading and writing of course. But to also fill their summers with creating and making and playing.  I felt that it was the right message to end my time with these amazing kids, who I will miss incredibly.  I felt that it was a message I hoped they would remember, one that would inspire them somehow.

I have to say, the impact was immediate. I gave the children 20-25 minutes of choice time after the video. In almost every class, someone created something different BECAUSE they had watched the video. Kids who had been building with straws and connectors for weeks, created games for others to play with these same building tools. They began to look at the building toys with new eyes. Kids who often spent their time writing books, instead created menus for restaurants they planned to create over the summer.  Some students created extensive drawings of dollhouse furniture they might make or cardboard statues they envisioned.  It was amazing and it happened within minutes of watching the video.

I wanted the library to be about possibilities as learners and I hope that it was for many children.  I hope that something in Caine's Arcade helps them to understand that creativity matters and that they have the capacity to create amazing things and to have fun while doing it.

I knew the video would be powerful but didn't realize how powerful it would be. I may start my year in the classroom with the same video. The message it has for our children is a powerful one. It is a video that invites, inspires and validates. It is a video that gives me a vision for what learning is all about.

(Today, I received this link via Facebook from Riverside's amazing art teacher, Drew Jones.  Caine seems to be inspiring learners everywhere!)


  1. A brilliant way to end a brilliant 4 years in the library. Your spot-on-perfect choices never cease to amaze me!! You have changed so many lives through your work there -- from librarians around the country you have inspired, to the teachers at your building you have unified around a common vision of literacy, to the students who have learned about the magic of learning and creating in the space you created for them.

    And this guy who made the video and changed Caine's life forever? We, as teachers, should remember that it is in our power to do what he did for Caine for OUR students in small ways (maybe not flash mobs :-) every single day. All we need to do is NOTICE what it is they are good at. Recognize them, encourage them, and do our best to help them get their legs under them in the year(s) we have them so that they might go on and do greater good with the talents we have recognized. Caine's incredible creativity might have ended with a cool cardboard arcade he built the summer he was nine...if it hadn't been for the one person who noticed and named and help him go public with his creation. Now the sky's the limit for Caine.

  2. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Sooooo incredible. And everything Mary Lee said too. I think I have to get my class together at the library and show it to them.

  3. Thanks, girls:-) Mary Lee, good point about noticing. A good reminder for us as teachers. This film has so many important messages--thanks to you, I just saw one more of them!

  4. Franki, Thank you for sharing this with all of us! I didn't see the whole video because I was too busy crying. Not only was the video inspiring, but also the way you used it. Well done! I will show this video to my class next week as we end our school year. Thank you again for sharing!
    An Open Door

  5. Amazing. Thanks for sharing. I will be incorporating this into the end of the year.

    Chickadee Jubilee

  6. First, your blog post itself was inspiring. I see changes in my library that I can plan for this summer. Second, Caine's Arcade brought tears to my eyes. Third, Mary Lee's comments reminded me of the power we as educators have. We can bring joy to students. And they can bring joy to us.

    Thank you both so much.

  7. Anonymous7:28 PM

    Okay Franki, this was like a retirement gift - knowing there are people out there who believe in the power of creativity. I was so touched by this film. The message is a powerful one. Thank you for sharing it and getting it out there for all of us to see.

  8. Beautiful idea to end with this, Franki, & the idea that the library can be the support to aid their creativity which you have also given those students. I imagine it was so hard to say goodbye, but they will remember you as you remember them. We are saying goodbye this year to our librarian and interviewing for a new one, not an easy task to find one to inspire. Here's to librarians!


Comment moderation is turned on.