The Wonders of Cardboard & Caine’s Arcade Global Cardboard Challenge!

      Opal School Preschool students building and playing with cardboard: Photos by Steve Davee. Caine’s Photo by Nirvan Mullick

September 19, 2012, by Steve Davee

The power of Cardboard

Here at Maker Ed, we love cardboard. Personally, some of my earliest and fondest childhood memories of making involve creating cardboard box forts, robot costumes, stuffed animal vehicles, and countless other cardboard creations.  I’m willing to bet that if you found a piece of cardboard right now, closed your eyes, and took in the distinct scent, that memories of making with cardboard will pour out for you as well.  There’s something visceral and amazing about this ubiquitous and versatile material. Something powerful.

Something about the magic of cardboard invites play, exploration, experimentation, building and collaboration. Kids and adults alike often respond to cardboard in the same way they might respond to sand and water at the beach— as materials that invite touch, modification and imagination.

I’ve had the great fortune to see the educational power of cardboard in action.  In all of my roles as a PE, Math and Science teacher at Opal School, my colleagues and I frequently included cardboard for many kinds of explorations, projects and challenges. Our students showed us through their enthusiasm and inventiveness that cardboard is a perfect, accessible, and readily available material for promoting play and Making in education.

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

As a past High School Destination Imagination and Odyssey of the Mind coach, I can attest that High School students are every bit as enthralled with working with cardboard as younger students. The things the participants of these programs can make with duct tape and cardboard are legendary.

Institutions and schools across the world are also wise to the wonder of cardboard. In a future blog post, Maker Ed will be profiling one such program at the Chicago Children’s Museum: UNBOXED: Adventures in Cardboard. San Francisco’s Exploratorium is also a constant cardboard innovator, with such programs as their Cardboard Institute of Technology.

Cain’s Arcade Global Cardboard Challenge

Given all of this love of cardboard, and like millions across the planet, we have been enthralled with the inspiration of Caine’s Arcade. We are thrilled to see that arcade creator Caine Monroy  and filmaker Nirvan Mullick have been busy putting their well-deserved attention to use, by creating the Imagination Foundation, and releasing an equally inspiring and moving new film.

We invite you to celebrate the launch of the Imagination Foundation, and the one-year anniversary of the original Caine’s Arcade video, by participating in the Global Cardboard Challenge!


Here are the details, provided by the foundation:

The Imagination Foundation was born out of the global phenomenon surrounding Caine’s Arcade, a short film about a 9-year-old Los Angeles boy who build an arcade out of cardboard. The mission of the Imagination Foundation is to find, foster and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in kids.

 Now, in celebration of the one-year anniversary of the day the film was made, the team behind the film is launching the Imagination Foundation. Its mission: to find, foster and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in kids. To launch the foundation, the Imagination Foundation is hosting the first annual Global Cardboard Challenge this coming October 6. The Challenge will bring together the young and the young at heart from all over the world to build, play, and celebrate creativity and community.

How it Works
During September, participants will organize events and start building using two ingredients: cardboard and imagination. Then, on October 6, friends, family, co-workers and communities can come out to play and display their cardboard creations at local events, celebrating the imagination and creativity of kids everywhere.

What can you do?
Sign up on to host an event in your classroom, at your school, at your home, at your company or in your community. Check out our Organizer Toolkits for suggestions. Cardboard Challenge events can vary in scale, so feel free to customize as best fits your kids, community, and resources. Build during the next few weeks at home or in your classrooms, then host an open house on or around October 6th. Feel free to use your event to fundraise for your school, local causes or the Imagination Foundation.

For more information, visit

On Twitter? Follow @nirvan @imagination and @cainesarcade #cardboardchallenge

I can’t wait to see the great things that will come out of the Global Cardboard Challenge. Given that Halloween is just around the corner, I may just have to revive a childhood tradition for the Challenge by creating myself a new cardboard robot costume!

 Opal preschoolers building cardboard forts: Photos by Steve Davee





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