On October 5, Find & Seek hosted the Cardboard Challenge, a day-long cardboard building extravaganza for families, at Beam Center on Bergen St. in Cobble Hill. This event was one of eight in Brooklyn, 27 in NYC, 387 in the US, and hundreds throughout the world, in the Global Cardboard Challenge sponsored by the Imagination Foundation. We love the Imagination Foundation because it grew out of the wonderful cardboard project and film Caine's Arcade! If you haven't seen this video, this is so worth 11 minutes of your time:
Here is the description of the project (from www.imagination.is) that quickly convinced us at Find & Seek that we must participate in this global event:
Our Global Cardboard Challenge invites kids around the world to design and build awesome creations using cardboard, recycled materials and imagination. Each year, the Challenge culminates in a global day of play on the first Saturday in October, bringing communities together to celebrate the creativity and imagination of kids everywhere . . . The mission of the Imagination Foundation is to find, foster and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in children around the world to raise a new generation of innovators and problem solvers who have the tools they need to build the world they imagine.
For further evidence of the stunning power of Caine's Arcade to inspire massive fundraising and a "wave of cardboard creativity inspired in kids around the world," (words of filmmaker Nirvan Mullick) take another 8 minutes to watch "Caine's Arcade 2: From a Movie to a Movement."
Mapping, Planning and Setting Up for the Build
We are so proud of this day and what came of it, which exceeded our greatest expectations, that we are going to tell ALL about it and share a TON of amazing photos, so get ready!
We started our day with only three kids: Magnolia (Kristin's daughter, 4), Jasper, 4, and Heaven, 11 (whom you may remember from Spirit Ship, which we shot when she was 6 and Magnolia was 3 months from birth).
We invited the children to imagine their dream city, and to focus on one building a piece. We taped butcher paper to the wall so that children could draw their initial building ideas. They got to work. We told children to imagine it could look like anything they wanted. Rainbow colors, cotton candy clouds, tree-topped roof terraces, circular penthouses and candy adorned facades soon leaped off the paper.
About four dozen boxes needed to be assembled in order to start stacking and designing the layout of the circular-shaped city we had planned. Thoughtful planning and positioning is a group effort. Our only advice to children was to keep an open space in the center through which they could move freely. It wasn't long before children were beginning to create interior space within which to hide and nest their bodies. Later, eventually, vehicles and private homes big and small began to develop identity.
While Elisha helped stack, Morgan assembled boxes, and Kristin took photos. We took turns of course. Elisha was especially concerned with the city gaining height to facilitate creation of the secret interior world of the city. This task was a job for much taller people. Morgan (below) had her work cut out for her building the boxes. The children and adults together discovered a method of box blending that included keeping two sides open and nesting the flaps. This worked out great because eventually they became tunnels where the children spent much time negotiating how to use the passageway.
Then we took a break and watched Caine's Arcade, as a couple of the children hadn't seen it.
Not every idea was easy to execute. Cardboard and tape sound pedestrian enough, but wow, the more complex the dream, the bigger the challenge. Still all were up to the challenge and few gave up on their ideas.
Slowly the towers of boxes grew and grew, as more and more people began to arrive. We sculpted an archway entrance to the city and people were dreaming of height. There would continually be trouble-shooting that needed to be worked out with the materials. But box cutters were supplied for grown-ups' use only and over a dozen rolls of duct tape and packing tape along with scissors and markers helped make the build viable. The sky (or really the twelve foot ceiling) was the limit! Children set to work alone and in groups. The movement, focus, and utter joyful busyness in the room was astounding!
Children worked collaboratively with family members and friends. Inspiration gave way to discussion. Discussion gave way to compromise. Everything in the room was changing so rapidly with every new member. We could barely keep up with the handing out of supplies and documentation.
Independence and Ownership
It is proven that when children are given the opportunity to be mentored through building, designing and creating things following their own interests, they possess a greater and more authentic level of ownership of their work. It becomes purpose driven and highly motivated work because it comes from them. We hoped to be there to encourage exactly that in the young people who participate in our workshops at Find & Seek. We think it also shows volumes in the great city build. Many children took on the challenge of working independently with great enthusiasm. Games, vehicles, restaurants and private hideaways were constructed. Many children were eager to explain their work and to be photographed with it.
Diversity of Voice
As we review the documentation of this day, we can see how fully different interests and concepts were explored. Some children focused on the intricacies of insides vs. outsides, building rooms, houses and vehicles. Some honed their interests in movement and action, creating games that manipulated objects. Some were interested in the aesthetics of the world, adding paint, color and design work to the outsides. Others explored their voices through word, inscribing important messages or sign work onto the structures. Graffiti anyone? Have at it! This is the time and it's all good. We accept all ideas here and work together as a democratic community with a shared vision of joy, beauty, exploration, whatever you will...
Windows and Entryways
Windows of color and light add texture and dimension, art and potential for play to the architecture. The need to get inside the place, to peer in, to peer out, all became part of the MAGIC of the day.
Bringing the Outdoors In
What would the city be with rainclouds and sunshine overhead and gardens blossoming beneath or butterflies fluttering by? Some participants brought beads, fake flowers and other bits which began to influence the sky and earth elements. We provided cotton, paper plates, colorful paint, sticks, tissue paper string and colored velum. These items sat quietly awaiting any interested takers. They were all used at some point, in particular to add a bit of nature to the world. Nice!
We Have Words!
Read the SIGNS everyone! Hello Brooklyn, Keep Left, Get Food Here, Parking, Fishing Hole, Keep Calm, and Dream are but some of the few you can find in our City.
Taking it all In
Upon its completion, it took a team of about eight adults to help string the plethora of lights in and around the amazing city. It was a brilliant sight to behold and we think the many people who helped to create it were awestruck. Children were able to crawl inside and through the structure although parts of it were, not surprisingly, a bit shaky. Still, we were all impressed by how much had been accomplished in a mere six hours.