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Game On: iJAG Students Create Arcade at FDSH - from The Messenger

May 27, 2021

A small classroom on the second floor of Fort Dodge Senior High School has been temporarily transformed into an arcade for the remainder of the school year.

Students in Jerry Ellendson's iJAG (Iowa Jobs for America's Graduates) class created eight different games for students to play.

The games include mini football throwing, Skee-Ball, Klinko, Whack-A-Mole, mini basketball, putting, paper football and marble maze.

Any student in the school can come try the games out from 8 a.m. to 12:36 p.m. if they are caught up on all of their schoolwork.

Ashton Patrick, 17, a junior, is iJAG president. He said the students were inspired to create the games after seeing a video.

"We were just watching a video about this little kid that built an arcade out of cardboard boxes and we thought it'd be fun to try one ourselves," Patrick said. "We also have posters around the school about it."

The games do not have any electrical components. Each station is made mostly from cardboard and duct tape.

"We have three periods," Patrick said. "First period made some games, second period made some games and third period made some games. And we put them all together. If students aren't missing any work they can come play in the arcade."

Ellendson is hoping the arcade might get some students to think about participating in iJAG next school year.

"I thought it would be a fun way to end the year and recruit students for iJAG for next year," Ellendson said. "It's about finding the right kids and wanting to find their careers for the future. Helping kids get on their career path."

The iJAG program is designed to connect students to local businesses. Typically, the idea is for students to shadow the careers and learn on the job. But COVID-19 squashed that during the 2020-21 school year.

"Everyone Zoomed in and kids don't love that," Ellendson said. "Next year will be a lot better to go out to businesses and work with them. We were kind of locked in the school, we couldn't do that."

Ellendson said other iJAG classes around the state make the cardboard arcade rooms every year and have had success with it.

In terms of the games, Skee-Ball seemed to be a favorite.

"You just roll the ball up the ramp and there's different holes with different points," Patrick said. "It's kind of hard but it doesn't take a lot of skill to score points. And it's built pretty well."

Jennifer Lane, Fort Dodge Community School District director of communications and community relations, was on hand to see the games.

"I think Skee-Ball is my favorite," she said.

"It's everyone's favorite," said Skylar Steves, 16, a sophomore.

Keyton Fraser, 17, a junior, was playing mini basketball.

"You get five throws and these are tape balls," Fraser said.

Carmelo Hughes, 16, a sophomore, liked the mini basketball game.

"It's hard, it's also fun and it's just basketball," Hughes said.

Hughes and Patrick also tried out the Whack-A-Mole, which held up surprisingly well for how much it was getting whacked.

"We have had to use a little more tape to keep it going," Ellendson said.

The football throwing station wasn't getting as much action as some of the other games. Ellendson said that's due to the difficulty level.

"That one is nearly impossible," he said.

For that game, students throw a small football into holes made in a cardboard box.

"The high score in football is 200 and I don't even know if I believe that," Ellendson said.

Ellendson said the project has been fun for students and he hopes to build on it next year.

"The students are having fun and they got creative building some of these games," he said. "They put cars in the Klinko. Some stuff fell apart - trial and error. This is something we plan on building every year, maybe build it in a different room. It's a smaller classroom, so maybe a bigger one next year."

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