Nintendo brings its Labo gaming kits to classrooms
Nintendo Labo is going to school. The video game maker is teaming up with the nonprofit Institute of Play to bring its Do-It-Yourself Labo cardboard gaming kits to 100 elementary schools around the country.
“Our goal is to help teachers and students have fun with the basic principles of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, collectively known as STEAM,” says Nintendo of America President and COO Reggie Fils-Aime. “We believe Nintendo Labo can be a powerful learning tool to foster 21st Century skills such as communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving.”
The program aims to reach some 2,000 students between ages 8 and 11 during the 2018-2019 school year.
The Labo kits, which I gave a positive review in April through the eyes of my 11-year old son, Samuel, are a bit challenging to pigeonhole. Think of them as kits that marry the required Nintendo Switch portable video gaming system with pieces of cardboard that a kid can bend and fold into various so-called “Toy-Con” projects, including a miniature piano (that can play real notes), fishing rod and robot.
Step-by-step animations appear on the Switch to help students build their projects.
The schools that participate as part of the program will receive two Nintendo Switch systems and Labo “Variety Kits” at no cost, along with extra cardboard to accommodate multiple students in a classroom. Nintendo and the Institute of Play have also put together a guide for teachers.
The required Nintendo Switch normally lists for $299.99, and the Labo cardboard is $69.99 for a variety pack with five projects, or $79.99 for the robot kit.
Schools can still apply to be part of the program. Arana Shapiro, the co-director of the Institute of Play, says the organization is seeking public and private schools, and schools in suburban, urban and rural areas that represent socioeconomic diversity.
Nintendo and the Institute of Play have already worked on a pilot with 11 schools in the greater New York area, including the Douglass G. Grafflin School in Chappaqua, New York, and the Lake Hiawatha Elementary School in Lake Hiawatha, New Jersey.
“Students were immediately engaged because of the Nintendo brand, but watching what they created with the cardboard come to life took the learning experience to an entirely different level,” says Stephen Figurelli, principal of Lake Hiawatha Elementary School.
Fils-Aime says that educators came to Nintendo with the idea to bring Labo to schools, not the other way around.
“Fundamentally, do we believe this is going to be good for our business, certainly,” Fils-Aime concedes. “But I have to say much more passionately, we believe that this is going to be good for students.”
The in-classroom program will run through March. Nintendo hasn’t determined yet what will happen once the program has been completed, or spelled out if or what it might end up charging schools interested in adding Labo to their curriculum.
Will kids using Labo in the classroom get something different out of the kits than they might at home?
“My candid answer is we’ll learn,” Fils-Aime says. In the classroom experience, “we have seen students take charge, we’re seeing students be proactive, we’re seeing them really engage with their teachers in a way that the teachers are telling us they haven’t before.”
Third-graders at the Douglas G. Grafflin School in Chappaqua, N.Y., participate in an interactive session with the Nintendo Labo led by Rebecca Rufo-Tepper.