Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cardboard Challenge Reflections Part 1 (because there will probably be more...)

Dear Teachers,
Back at ETSI, we offered a class on the Maker Movement, which included several samples of things you might do in a Makerspace or Learning Commons. One example was the Cardboard Challenge. The Cardboard Challenge is an international movement that sprang from the endeavors of a young man named Caine, who built an entire arcade out of cardboard. You can learn more about Caine at the Caine's Arcade website. Don't miss the movie on that site - I get goosebumps just about every time I watch it. From this chance meeting between Caine and Nirvan Mullick, an amateur filmmaker, the Imagination Foundation was born, and since its inception just a couple of years ago, hundreds of thousands of kids have been inspired to create with cardboard. At ETSI, teachers had a chance to explore with cardboard on their own - and one teacher in particular began to dream.

So today, after weeks and weeks of planning, one of the schools in our district hosted the first-ever Cardboard Challenge in our fair city. It was an amazing day! Over 300 people showed up, representing 17 schools. There were toddlers, college students, and grandparents present - and every age in between. To say it was a success would be grossly understating the outcome.

I could talk all day long about what I saw, like the amazing imaginations or the heart-warming intergenerational interactions, but I thought I would focus instead on what I DIDN'T see at the Cardboard Challenge:

I didn't see anyone not being able to make up their mind about what they wanted to build. I didn't hear anyone say, "I don't know what to do" or "I'm just not very creative." Kids (and grown-ups, too!) just jumped in and started creating.

I didn't see any prizes given for the best or biggest or prettiest creation. The satisfaction came just from the doing, not from any award or prize.

I didn't see anyone being grossly competitive; I didn't see anyone bored or complaining or unhappy. I didn't see a tear shed, or even a small frown. Most people looked like this:

Or, at the very least, like this:

Here is just a SMALL sampling of some of the amazing creations:

And there is a wonderful stop-motion video here (I wish I had made it, but I didn't - thanks to Becca for sharing!)

I am feeling pretty darned good about the state of the world after this event. If you were there, you know what I mean. If you couldn't make it - well, I really hope you don't miss it next year. I have a feeling this is the start of something BIG!



  1. I think that is what was so neat to see....not a single bored or stumped child around. I heard several say that they "didn't know what" their creation was at first, but it always turned into something great! A game, a robot, a building, SOMETHING....something incredible. What a great thing to witness and be a part of!!

  2. Can you give me more details about how this was organized? I would love to do something like this in my school as well. TIA!

    1. Hi Felicia! You will want to tweet to Becca Bailey - @artwithbailey - or send her an email at She was the mastermind behind this successful event! Good luck - I can't say enough good things about our cardboard challenge!

    2. Hey Nancy. We too are doing a Cardboard Challenge for the first time this year. I tried to email Becca and her email address bounced. Any chance you have an updated email for Becca that you could email to me (