Walking into Smoky Hill High School on Oct. 13 was like walking into another world. A world filled with strange and wonderful creatures; an elaborately decorated Indian elephant, a variety of dragons and dinosaurs, an elegant eel-like creature that could have been a cousin of the Loch Ness Monster.
There were equally amazing machines; a tank with a working turret and catapult, a grand piano with a computerized keyboard, a telephone booth straight out of Victorian London, except for the high tech smartphone keypad.
It was all part of the 4th Annual Cherry Creek Schools Foundation Cardboard Challenge, a celebration of imagination and creativity. Students turned their dreams into reality with nothing but cardboard and other recycled materials.
Canyon Creek kindergarten student Ella Farrell created “Mr. Johnny, the busy box robot.”
“I always wanted to make a robot to take me places and do stuff for my mom and dad… get them coffee and tuck us in,” Farrell said.
“She had fun with it. She’s creating things all the time, so this is perfect for her,” said Ella’s mom, Heather Farrell. Her 5th grade daughter, Josten, also took part in the Cardboard Challenge. “It’s good because of the creativity. It gives them a chance to use their imagination, so I like that.”
The annual Cardboard Challenge is part of the Global Cardboard Challenge, an international movement to engage children in creative play. It was inspired by Nirvan Mullick’s 2011 short film “Caine’s Arcade,” about 9-year-old Caine Monroy, who spent his summer vacation building an elaborate cardboard arcade.
More than 700 students from across the Cherry Creek School District entered some 550 projects, making this one of the district’s largest Cardboard Challenges.
The success of the Cardboard Challenge is evidence of our students’ limitless apacity to create, to use their imagination and ingenuity to bring their ideas to life,” said Jill Henden, executive director of the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation. “It also demonstrates the importance of supporting the district’s innovation initiatives and STEM education programs, which are helping to prepare our students for success in our ever-changing world.”
The Foundation recruited dozens of volunteer judges for the event, many from local businesses. They evaluated the projects on the basis of creativity, use of cardboard and recycled materials and construction, and selected finalists in four categories; kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, middle school and high school. It wasn’t an easy task. The judges were impressed by what they saw.
“The creativity was inspiring,” said Linnea McGaw, a first-time judge who definitely wants to come back next year. “It’s nice to know there are generations coming up who aren’t just looking at a book. They’re actually creating something and they have ideas that inspire other people as well.”