2012- Celebrating The Year of Cardboard

December 14, 2012

By Steve Davee, Maker Ed


I ran into this little friend of mine and his cardboard wings earlier this week. The story behind them is quite sweet.

His mother was kind enough to share this account:

…He had decided to make a cat bed, so his father helped him cut and glue it into a shape while he directed. One of the left-over  pieces looked like perfect wings to him. He brought them  to me and wondered how to attach them.  I was distracted knitting and quickly had an idea and asked if I could do it for him.  He was excited about the idea so we cut along a line that was already there, knowing they would look even more wing like if I did. We then poked holes in the wings and just happened to have some silver elastic (that he had unwound the week before— he was so pleased that his rascally-ness paid off) that we were able to loop through the holes.  We put them on his back and he was thrilled!  He ran to show them off to whoever was in the house and played a number of games by himself involving the wings…

Seeing my little buddy’s cardboard wings and hearing this nice story of parent and child collaborative Making really got me thinking— this has been quite the amazing year for Cardboard. Therefore, I’d like to celebrate 2012 as the “Year of Cardboard” by sharing a few related  highlights from our blog, and stories of cardboard creation that have captured the world’s attention. I’ll also recommend a few gift ideas to help capitalize on cardboard excitement.

Caine’s Arcade

Last April, the world was introduced to Caine’s Arcade for the first time. This incredible story, and some very fine film-making,  spawned a wave of cardboard enthusiasm that also led to the creation of the Imagination foundation, established to find, foster, and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in kids.

In our post, The Wonders of Cardboard & Caine’s Arcade Global Cardboard Challenge! we promoted their first annual Global event and also shared some of the joys of working with cardboard, and the use of cardboard within schools. In a future post, we’ll share the experiences of Opal School third and fourth graders as they planned and hosted a Global Cardboard Challenge event at the Portland Children’s Museum.

 Cardboard explorations and projects, Opal Students ages 3-11: Photos by Steve Davee

Preschool replaces toys with cardboard: Awesome happens

As we covered in this post, Teacher Pete Kaser reminded everyone what is possible by allowing for open- ended creation by replacing all of his preschool classroom materials and toys with cardboard and other construction materials.


Bikes and Cardboard Engineering

News also came this year of the development of a $20 Cardboard Bike, and even a Cardboard bike helmet that would go well along with it, showing clever engineering, and the power and possibilities of paper and corrugation.

The Exploratory: Go-Kart Fencing Armor

The Exploratory shared a Maker Ed blog post in which many of the projects involved cardboard, such as these suits of armor for Go-Kart fencing, modified to include chest-plate switches to activate a buzzer when hits were scored.

Automata for the People: How my class followed their wonderful ideas

Opal School Teacher Rob Van Nood shared a story on Maker Ed including the use of cardboard for Automata prototyping for a long term class- project at Trillium Charter School. Rob is the teacher who’s 4th and 5th grade class hosted the Global Cardboard Challenge in Portland, Oregon.

Chicago Children’s Museum: Mister Imagine’s Toy Store

To cap our tour of highlights, just this week I learned via the Opal School blog, of Chicago Children’s Museum pop-up toy store. This naturally inspires some ideas for gifts this holiday season.

A Few Gift Ideas

I had quite a few parents of students and friends ask me for gift suggestions for this season. I’ve most often been recommending tools and materials that support making with cardboard.  Here’s a few suggestions that have been tried and tested by myself and fellow educators.

Cardboard Cutting tools

Black & Decker has recently discontinued but still available power Scissors that are quite effective for rapidly and safely cutting cardboard. They are especially handy with curves. As you can see below, even very young children can use them with supervision. In the photo I took on the right below during the Global Cardboard Challenge hosted by Opal this year, a two year old was able to successfully, with quite a bit of concentration and persistence, cut cardboard using these shears. it should be noted that both the father and I were very close by, but this toddler insisted on doing it himself, and triumphed. Your comfort for the age- appropriate range of using these may vary.

The rotary cutters on the right are typical of those available by a variety of brands, including Skil. Both cutters are typically available for about $35-40.

Rivet Connectors, and Tape

MakeDo and Mr. McGroovy’s make great additions to any cardboard building tool chain. It is likely too late to order these two kinds of re-usable rivet connectors in time for some gifts, but they are incredibly handy, so it’s never too late to have them on hand. These are especially handy considering duck tape is not recyclable. Paper Packing tape, on the other hand, is recyclable, and some manufactures are now making wide masking tape made largely with post- consumer waste.

MakeDo, available in the Maker Shed.

Mr. McGroovy’s Box Rivets

An invitation- Share your cardboard stories and pictures!

I’m quite certain that our Maker Ed audience is full of incredible cardboard creation examples. I’d love to collect your stories and pictures to add to future celebrations of making with cardboard. Please feel free to contact me at Steve@MakerEd.org.

I’m off to do some physics calculations to figure out just how large I’d have to make my own cardboard wings to actually fly, but in the mean-time, I’ll settle for the power of imagination. Thank you, cardboard, and to all of our blog contributors and readers,  for helping to make, and to celebrate, the Year of Cardboard together!

Thanks my flying friend, for the blog post inspiration!









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