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Saturday, September 12, 2015

No Technology Required!

Imagine a day at school with no books, no technology, and no traditional instruction! Imagine all the children engaged in creative imagination with cardboard, scissors, tape, and markers! Imagine collaboration, invention, and laughter galore! Imagine a day of inspiration your students will never forget!

The idea for this week has everything to do with technology, yet requires no technology to complete! If you spend anytime at all on social media, this idea is probably not new to you, yet I find teachers wherever I present that have not yet heard the story behind this wonderful learning opportunity...

Just a few years ago, a little boy created an arcade out of cardboard at his father's business. By chance, a filmmaker visited the business, played the cardboard games, recognized the brilliance of the child's creations, and made a documentary! Thanks to the internet and social media, the film traveled around the world inspiring people everywhere! You can see the heartwarming story of Caine's Arcade for yourself:
The idea was embraced by the world and a foundation was created to encourage innovation and problem solving in children. The Imagination Foundation is currently sponsoring the 4th Annual Cardboard Challenge. The event lasts throughout September, ending with a global day of play on Saturday, October 10. There is more about the event in this video "Caine's Arcade 2: From a Movie to a Movement":
Our district high school Homecoming events take place on a Friday in October each year, resulting in a half day of school for all the elementary students. We made plans for that half day to be used for the Cardboard Challenge to see what would happen. 

We put out the word that we needed cardboard... lots of cardboard. Parents and staff members visited local furniture and appliance stores. Carpet stores supplied large cardboard tubes. Egg cartons, cereal boxes, wrapping paper tubes, and an assortment of miscellaneous treasures were donated, gathered, and organized for the day. The school purchased extra box cutters and packaging tape for the event. Although the creations would come from the children, cutting would need to be done by adults, so volunteer parents and high school groups were arranged as well. 

Our challenge to the students was to create an arcade for the student body to enjoy! Each classroom was responsible for at least one game. One year we had all materials ready the morning of the event and each classroom gathered materials from the lobby that day. Another year, the materials were available throughout the week and classes gathered things prior to the day of the event. Regardless of how you plan to organize an event, the Cardboard Challenge creates an amazing opportunity to put your students' teamwork and creativity to work! In my class, second graders formed small teams to think of a game, write the rules, create a diagram, and generate a materials list. What we could not find in the supplies gathered by the school, kids brought from home. 

The night before, teachers used tape to mark off areas in the gym and lunchroom. Each class had one large space. The kids went to work immediately following morning attendance, working for about an hour on creating their games. Once everything was in place and tidied up for play, the entire school went out for a short recess before opening the arcade to the school. Each class had divided themselves into two groups. One would run the game while the other group played. Halfway through the playtime, a bell rang signaling the students to trade places. 

One year we played without prizes, another year most classes had candy or small trinkets to hand out. The children were delighted either way. The true reward was in the creation!

At the end of our time, each class took apart their games, sorting cardboard and other recyclable materials. Our oldest students cleaned up, making a large pile of cardboard that a parent had agreed to deliver to the recycle bins in our town. 

Sack lunches outside, or hotdogs on a grill organized by our Parent Advisory, completed a magical day for the kids that left them wanting more! Here is a video memory of one of our Cardboard Challenge days"
I think we expect our children to grow up too fast. We constantly "raise the bar" for their learning and academic achievement. As a mother, grandmother, and teacher, I have seen firsthand how quickly children grow and leave childhood behind. I had a poster hanging in my classroom for years that said, "Childhood is a journey, not a race". If I had one wish for education today, it would be that we allow children to slow down and enjoy the journey. They are only little for a short time...

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