The Global Cardboard Challenge is an annual event that brings together teachers, parents and children in countries around the world to emphasize the importance of creativity and play in child learning. It gives children an opportunity to collaborate, learn, and build through creative play. It lets children explore their interests and passions, teach critical thinking, resourcefulness, perseverance, teamwork and other 21st century skills. It also bring communities together to foster and celebrate child creativity.
Throughout the year, the Imagination Foundation communicates to local and worldwide communities about the importance of creative play, promotes the idea that any child can build the world they imagine by starting small, and shows how schools, parents and communities can get involved in the Global Cardboard Challenge.
The Challenge is inspired by the movie “Caine’s Arcade,” the story of a 9-year old boy, who used cardboard to build an elaborate play arcade in his father’s spare parts workshop.
The Challenge is kicked off in September every year, and communities around the world organize events in which children (and adults) of all ages are invited to build anything they can using cardboard and recycled material. The campaign is open for registration throughout the year, however most activity happens during the months of September and October. These sessions culminate into a “Day of Play” in October commemorating the anniversary of a flash mob in Los Angeles celebrating Caine’s creativity. On the “Day of Play,” children come together to celebrate and share their creativity by building or bringing their creations to share with others in the community.
This innovation is flexible and costs the participant and the organizer little money. The host – teacher, school, parent or community volunteers - decide when, where and how the challenge will be organized. The organizer gathers the resources for the event; most spend very little as the focus is on using recycled material.
The cardboard challenge is often the beginning of an Imagination Chapters program, which include learning spaces run by teachers, educators, librarians, parents, community leaders, and others who would like to spread the idea of creative play in their communities. They hold regular sessions with a group of children in their community over the course of a school year. These volunteers access the networks of Imagination Chapter leaders, resources, trainings, products and ideas on how to keep kids engaged in learning.
The Global Cardboard Challenge is one of the 10 champions of the LEGO Foundation and Ashoka's Re-Imagine Learning Challenge.
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CEI approaches in action
The program has grown from 20,000 participants to 250,000 participants and 1596 challenge organizers in over 50 countries in the world. Some of their partners include Focus Features, The Boxtrolls, the National Head Start Association, AT&T, Aspire, and Disney.
The Imagination Foundation is trying to expand the program’s reach. One of the ways they do this is by engaging partners who help spread the message of creative play. With the rate that this program has grown, the Imagination Foundation expects the Cardboard Challenges to expand further in 2015 by engaging more partners and including their 130+ Imagination Chapters as advocates for Cardboard Challenges in and around their communities.
Monitoring & Evaluation
The website cardboardchallenge.com, through which participants register their events, is used to track numbers of participants, events and countries involved. The website also provides basic information and some resources to plan Cardboard Challenge events. Challenge organizers also fill out a survey in mid to late October, which tracks their satisfaction, thoughts about how the program ran and suggestions on how to improve the program in the future. Imagination Foundation has also partnered with Indiana University to help develop an assessment tool to determine the value of creative play in children's educational advancement.