If you want to spark curiosity, conversation and perhaps influence people to embrace particular values in their daily lives, tell a compelling story. It is through stories that natural relationships are revealed and shared and it is through stories that inspiration grows. The Cardboard Challenge is one such story.
“It has been said that next to hunger and thirst, our most basic human need is for storytelling.”
The Cardboard Challenge is one way to start co-writing a new story about what it means to learn and live so that inspiration grows and education nourishes life. This is a community-oriented event celebrating the creativity of children everywhere sitting in cardboard boxes and the role communities can play in fostering it by helping create an environment that inspires children to explore how to reduce, reuse, repair, and recycle by designing and building what they dream.
Far too often we jump right into action by asking our children to save the earth, focusing on the academic knowledge of what to learn and how to take actions toward that goal without first having our children playfully spend time in nature to develop a gratitude for and connection with her. Far better to have our children first develop a deep personal appreciation for nature which then leads to a yearning and understanding why we should live in balance with it.
Play, according to Dr. David Blumenkrantz, can be thought of as “secular spirituality and a primal, organic way for essential learning, laughter, love and a sense of connection to community emerges.” It is a pathway to understanding and connecting to our authentic, resilient selves and the world around us in a way that nourishes all life. However, play for the sake of play is not the same as playful learning or learning (or assessment) disguised as play and games – children see right through such guises. Many great thinkers have said something similar using slightly different words and in different languages, but one quote that I like is;
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
Where did the idea of a Cardboard Challenge come from? The Cardboard Challenge, now an annual international event presented by Imagination Foundation, was inspired by a 9-year-old boy named Caine who designed an entire cardboard arcade business.
In September, kids of all ages all over the world are invited to play, design and build anything they can dream up using cardboard, recycled materials, and imagination. Then, on the second Saturday in October the designers (our children) invite others from their community to share, play, celebrate creativity and play some more. When I see a community of people from children just one year old through respected elders conversing, laughing and in other ways engaged in the Cardboard Challenge I can’t help but paraphrase
“The only limits are in the (playful) imagination of the designer.”
The cardboard challenge is a fun, playful event that naturally inspires questions about whole systems design learning – from where the materials were acquired to the realm of possibility as designers and builders and finally to what will happen to the materials after the event. At an event like this I often describe design learning as a creative, active process where the designer (no matter the age) is investigating, imagining and innovating potential solutions to the challenges at hand.
Some of the challenges that children may want to tackle at this event might include how to create a new fishing pole (because Uncle Hank’s was accidently broken recently), design a 3D tic-tac-toe game to bring over for a friend’s birthday party sleepover that weekend, or perhaps create a new kind of locking journal that one’s little brother can’t read.
Integrating whole systems thinking about our resources into the fun of design learning takes traditional problem-based, self-directed learning to a new level because it:
• Integrates knowledge with playful experiential learning
• Focuses on the pattern of learning processes
• Draws connections between learning and life
• Promotes creativity and active critical thinking
• Transforms learning into a social, collaborative process
There are very thought provoking questions that naturally bubble up when our children are playing for the sake of playing. Questions are raised and learning naturally happens at an event like this for people of all ages, not just the children. Far too often we jump to wanting children to save the earth, but to paraphrase David Sobel we must first help them develop a connection and a love for her. We need to change the story to transform the future because:
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
For more information about this event and the organizations involved, learn more information about the history of the Cardboard Challenge, and view past videos and designs please listen to a short podcast or explore the Celebrating Creativity page on the PERMIE KIDs website.
From the Beginning to the End – Gratitude
PERMIE KIDs is grateful for the playful involvement and creativity of all the young designers and those with big shoes who love them. We are so fortunate to have the support and collaboration of ECO City Farms and Community Forklift, as well as Caine’s Arcade and Imagination Foundation for the inspiration. We would also like to thank Trevor from Urban Surge Photography and last but not least a special thank you for the final music in the video from the song, Bootstrappin’ Baby, written, performed, and shared by one of our PERMIE KIDs community members, Joanna McCluskey.
Bio: Jen Mendez is a wife, mother of two joyous children, experiential education mentor, and founder of PERMIE KIDs, where inspiration grows and education nourishes life. PERMIE KIDs is an educational resource network that uses whole systems thinking tools and ethics to help families and educators around the world discover the art, science and wisdom of mentoring children on their journeys in learning and life. Through educational programs, resources and workshops, we help parents and educators work with children to co-create personalized educational plans and projects driven by their passions and connected to their place, culture, family, and community.