Monday, October 13, 2014

Our First Cardboard Challenge

Crying at work isn't something I'm used to, but I sure did a lot of it on Saturday. Here's why...

You've probably heard of the brilliant child, Caine, who built an entire arcade out of cardboard. Through his own genius, he designed, engineered, and built an amazing creation. Nirvan Mullick happened to stop by Caine's Arcade and later directed a beautiful short film about Caine. It's no surprise that inspirational and tear-jerking video went viral.

But it didn't stop there. Caine inspired an international movement called the Cardboard Challenge in which we are all challenged to create, design, and engineer an amazing creation of our very own. My school district had incorporated the Cardboard Challenge at the classroom level in our science curriculum; however, we had never held a district-wide event. Three teachers in our school district, Becca Bailey, Megan Livengood, and Lara Rogers, saw the need for a district-wide event so they took the idea and ran with it. The campus where Becca and Megan teach agreed to host the event. My colleague, Nancy Watson, and I were fortunate enough to join this team of dynamos and the planning began.

On October 11, 2014, the doors opened for our school district's first cardboard challenge. The students and their families checked in and then made their way to the gym where they could help build a cardboard version of our city and / or build an invention of their own design.

With over 160 students AND their families, representing over 15 campuses, the place was packed and really hopping! Creativity was flowing! Brains were expanding!

I cried multiple times and I'm crying as I write this. For me, the Cardboard Challenge means many things, but one thing that really shined through was family. In the planning stages, the staff members working together quickly became a family. We bonded in a special and meaningful way because we knew this was huge. Even before it happened, we knew this was growing into a beautiful event and we were the lucky ones who got to plan it.

But really, it was the families who came to the Cardboard Challenge that made me cry because they were having so much fun! They walked in, found some cardboard, found a spot to work, and started creating. They were thinking, planning, laughing, and giggling while we walked around and snapped photos. It was like seeing a room full of light bulbs turning on and proud parents beaming in that glow.

Grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings -- the whole family was there! We had students who hadn't quite started school yet and college students who came to volunteer and create with our students.

We also had the privilege of having a Skype chat with a campus in Boulder, Colorado, who also happened to have their Cardboard Challenge on October 11. Mary Anne Zacek set everything up at their campus in Boulder and we even managed to get the two campus principals to chat for a bit! And one of our students was able to talk directly to them!

It was a real treat for our students to see other places doing the very same thing they were doing and showing them the breadth of this incredible movement that is the Cardboard Challenge. Not to mention, we loved being able to share all the amazing things both campuses created!

As the day ended, we saw the families proudly carrying their amazing creations to the photo booth area. After they snapped some photos, they found a way to get those creations back home. Over the weekend, we heard from many families saying they were not done! The cardboard creations were continuing to be worked on at home with new creations in the works!

We are currently working on producing a short video with the many photos that were taken during the planning and on our fun day of learning. And I should also point out that our excitement has not diminished. In fact, we are even more fired up for next year's Cardboard Challenge! It's impossible to contain this level of excitement especially after seeing our student inventors encouraging one another, praising each other's designs, and taking true pride in their own creations. Their grins are an image I'll always carry with me. It's the vision that even now makes me cry in pure delight and fuels my excitement to build more and do more for them.