Category Archives: Games

Life After the Cardboard Arcade

This is the 2nd year that I’ve participated in the annual Global Cardboard Challenge, inspired by Caine’s Arcade.  After last year, I had three goals in mind for this year’s event:

  • increase the number of students making games
  • increase the number of students who play the games
  • find a way to integrate the project with raising money for a charity

Last year, my GT students at the school were the only ones who participated.  This year, we started a school Maker Club.  With the help of two other amazing sponsors, we were able to add 24 more students to the roster of game designers.

To increase the number of players, we changed venues.  We moved the arcade from our school to the party rooms at a place called Main Event.  Main Event is an entertainment complex near us that offers bowling, laser tag, a ropes course, and video arcade as well as food and drink.  So, families could enjoy our games and make a night of it.

There were some amazing games included in our arcade.  Two of the more notable ones were a huge Sphero obstacle course created by a group of 6 students and a human fortune-telling machine! (Check these projects out in the slide show and videos below.)

For our charity, the students selected Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, a local organization that helps wildlife that have been injured to recover and return to their habitats as well as offering “forever” homes to wild animals that will never be able to survive on their own.

Our event went really well.  We raised over $700 for our charity and everyone seemed to have a fabulous time.  As an added bonus, sponsors from WRR came to our arcade and selected some of the games to be donated to the organization.  They will be sending us pictures and videos of the games being used for primate enrichment!

And that leads me to wonder how many other ways our games could have a second life next year.  Many of the students dedicated hours to creating their masterpieces.  It would be nice to give those games more than one day in the spotlight.  Monkeys aren’t the only ones that might appreciate them once the Big Event ends.  How about donating them to a Children’s Shelter, a hospital, or possibly a local library?  Admittedly, none of those is quite as exciting as watching a monkey play your game, but there are definitely many ways these creative projects can keep on giving…

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Ping Pong Trick Shots That Will Blow Your Mind

We just had our Cardboard Arcade two nights ago, and a few of the games involved getting ping pong balls to fall into holes or hit targets, all of which I failed at miserably. That’s why this post on Neatorama caught my eye, and seemed to be the perfect Phun Phriday link to share this week.  Check out this insanely talented 12-year-old, Mikey, who does increasingly complex trick shots in this video. (Here is the direct link to the video in case the Neatorama page is blocked on your end.)

from Ping Pong Cup Shots 2
from Ping Pong Cup Shots 2

Gravity Maze

Every year I do a “Gifts for the Gifted” series of posts during the holiday season.  It’s a bit early for that – although many retailers would disagree with me – but I have a recommendation that will definitely be on this year’s list.

For my Phun Phriday post this week, I am enthusiastically suggesting that you check out the Gravity Maze game from Thinkfun.  (Full disclosure: I received this game for review from the company, but I am under no obligation to advertise or write about it.)

Whenever we have indoor recess, I always have a large group of students that race to the container with the Marble Run materials. Others will grab Perplexus to play with.   All age levels are fascinated by watching marbles move along a path – particularly if it’s a path they designed.

Gravity Maze will certainly appeal to any child who enjoys these types of activities.  It’s a one-player game, but students can work as partners or take turns in a group.  The game comes with challenges that increase in difficulty, requiring the player to design a maze using the towers of varying color and size that will result in the marble falling into a certain place once released.

gravitymaze

I really feel like Thinkfun has hit a home run with this one!  It is a great logic puzzle that will appeal to kinesthetic and spatial learners.  It’s also a nice way to expose young children to some construction and engineering concepts.

You can see a video of how the game works embedded below.  Also, if you go to Thinkfun’s Gravity Maze page, you will find a review of Gravity Maze by Tom Vasel.  You will also see a slide show of other marble/construction games that have been around for awhile, including my absolute favorite when I was a kid, Labyrinth!

Want to see more games that I recommend?  Check out my Games and Toys for Gifted Students (actually they are for anyone who wants to challenge their brain and have fun!) That I Recommend Out of the Kindness of My Own Heart, and Not Because I Get Paid, Pinterest Board.

UPDATE:  The inventor of Gravity Maze, Oliver Morris, is up for an Inventor of the Year Award! And here is an interesting interview with Wei-Hwa Huang, who designed the challenges for Gravity Maze.

Game About Squares

Before you click on the link below, you must agree to the following statement:

“I will not hate Terri Eichholz for the rest of eternity just because she introduced me to this horribly addictive game that got me fired from my job because I couldn’t stop playing.”

Agreed?

Okay.

It’s Phun Phriday, and I found a really fun game that I’ve been wanting to share with you all week.  It’s called “Game About Squares.” It’s online and HTML 5, so you should be able to play it on mobile devices.  (I haven’t tried because I don’t want to start over!)

One of the messages between levels on Game About Squares
One of the messages between levels on Game About Squares

I am currently stuck on Level 14, and I am not a happy camper.  I’ve been making myself solve at least one new level every time I get on my home computer, but I tried two last night and got stuck.  I’m sure I could find the answer on the internet somewhere but that kind of defeats the purpose.

Right?

Check back with me in a few days and see if I’m still feeling that ethical about it…

I despise you, Level 14!
I despise you, Level 14!

Global Cardboard Challenge 2014

Since many people are returning to school during the next couple of weeks, I thought I would re-visit and share some of last year’s more successful projects in case you want to try one.  Yesterday’s post was on the surprise “You Matter” videos that I asked parents to make for their children last year.

Since most standardized tests used to measure “success” in schools today do not assess creativity, this skill tends to be less emphasized than ones that easily translate into multiple choice questions. However, I haven’t met one person who thinks that creativity is frivolous and many articles I’ve read, such as this one, from various news sources seem to indicate that it is a valuable attribute in the 21st century job market.

That being said, it’s sometimes difficult to fit creative activities into the school day.  The Global Cardboard Challenge is the perfect opportunity to revive the imaginations of your students.  First, show them the fabulous Caine’s Arcade videos.  Then, get your students to brainstorm and sketch their own ideas.  Next, give them time and resources to build.  Then, let them critique and improve.  And, finally have them share their creations.

Cardboard Theater (with a scrolling moving picture) created by one of my 3rd graders
Cardboard Theater (with a scrolling moving picture) created by one of my 3rd graders

There is not one right way to do this.  It can be during school, after school, on a weekend.  You can do it big and invite the community, or you can do it small and just involve your class or grade level.  The official date for the 2014 challenge is October 11th, but you can do it any day you want.

Last year, I just had my GT students participate.  I gave them an hour or two each week for about 4 weeks to work on their projects.  (If you want to see students completely engaged with absolutely no interest in even talking you, I promise this is the activity to try!)  Then they designed their own tickets and invited classmates to see their projects during recess.  This year, we’re going bigger.  I will still have my GT students make projects, but I will also have an after school Maker Club.  The GT students will be researching charities and choosing one.  The school will vote on the best projects, and we are teaming up with Main Event to host a “Pop-Up Arcade” of the student projects in their party rooms, charging $1 for the community to play the games.  All money raised will go to the charity my students select.

For more ideas on how to host your own event, you can check out the Organizer Playbook here.  More information is located here.  But remember, you can “think outside the box” and make the event fit what suits you and your students.

DragonBox Elements

I don’t often recommend paid apps on this blog.  One reason is that they are difficult for many educators to obtain for their classroom, as I outlined in yesterday’s post.  Another reason is that I feel that many of the paid apps have features that can be found in other free apps. However, every once in awhile, I run across a paid app that I think is unique and worth sharing.

I was recently given a promotional code for DragonBox Elements, and decided to test it out.  Previously, I had reviewed another app by the same company, DragonBox Algebra 5+, for AppoLearning.  (DragonBox 12+ is also available for older students, but I have not tried that one.) I was very impressed by the app, and have recommended it to parents who have young students with a high interest in math.

DragonBox Elements, like the Algebra apps, is designed to teach math “secretly.”  The Elements version teaches Geometry (I think they should change the name, as “Elements” made me think that it was a science app), and is aimed at students from 9-11.

DragonBox Elements - a Geometry app for ages 9-11 available here
DragonBox Elements – a Geometry app for ages 9-11 available here

The app accommodates up to 4 different players (individually, not at the same time), and has three levels of difficulty.  As advertised, it slowly guides you through basic geometric concepts by playing a game.  After learning to identify different types of triangles and quadrilaterals, the player begins to “prove” geometric characters into existence. For example, if one is given a triangle that shows two congruent angles, then there must be two congruent sides – making it an isosceles triangle.

None of the concepts are explicitly taught.  My daughter, who is 11, had the main complaint that she didn’t feel that she was learning anything.  However, when I asked her to explain her actions on a level, she basically gave me the steps of a geometric proof.

Like DragonBox Algebra, DragonBox Elements is a good app to recommend to parents who want to give their children an entertaining, educational app.  I think it definitely helps if there is an adult who can ask some guiding questions to aid the child in verbalizing what he or she has learned.

All of the DragonBox games are available on all mobile platforms here.  You can also find teaching resources on the site.

Fun Stuff to Do with Google

I’ve collected a few fun Google activities during the last week that I thought I would share for this week’s Phun Phriday post.  Remember, these are not necessarily educational – but that doesn’t mean you won’t find a way to integrate them into your classroom :)

I saw this Google Docs trick tweeted out earlier this week via @DenverUbow.  By typing in the Konami code while you are on a Google Doc, the text will reverse to its mirror image.  Type in the same code to get it back to normal.  Someone on Twitter (I can’t remember who) mentioned that this might be a fun trick to play on a student who leaves a Google Doc up on his or her screen when leaving the classroom for a restroom break. ;)  In our district GT program, the students learn about Leonardo da Vinci, so I’m thinking of a way to tie this in to his mirror writing in his journals.

Ozge Karaoglu’s blog has a recent post on this fun Docs Demo: Master’s Edition.  You can type in the Google Doc, and then have famous collaborators add to (or revise) your composition. Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson are two of the people who might join in.  What’s really cool is that Google records the whole process, and then gives you a link you can share with others.

And, lastly, @rpetitto shared that Build with Chrome now offers a Build Academy.  The online Lego building academy walks you through different challenges, and can be just as fun as doing the real thing.

Screenshot from Lego/Google Chrome Build Academy
Screenshot from Lego/Google Chrome Build Academy