by Maurna Rome
“There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there you’ll be free if you truly wish to be…”
—Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley
Each year I introduce my students to a young man named Caine. This creative entrepreneur had spent the entire summer in 2012 building an elaborate cardboard arcade in his dad’s auto shop garage in Los Angeles. Defining the essence of perseverance, he waited patiently for weeks to meet his first customer, Nirvan, who happened to be a filmmaker. The inspiring story of this 9 year old and the guy who made “a movie that became a movement to foster creativity worldwide” is captured on several YouTube videos.
The result of this unlikely partnership is the “Global Cardboard Challenge,” an event that takes place in 46 countries around the world. It is also the backstory behind a little project that took place in Room 132 this past school year. After learning about Caine’s story, my class also explored several cardboard themed books: Not a Box and The Cardboard Box Book. We then brainstormed ways to incorporate Caine’s creativity and passion for cardboard into a literacy-based activity. We came up with the “Cardboard L.I.T. Club.”
Thanks to a generous grant (see note at the end of this article) from the Minnesota Reading Association, the mission was for kids and adults to come together to:
- Be creative
- Promote the reading/writing connection
- Learn about teamwork
- Encourage each other to read and discuss good books
- Use art, technology, math, and engineering to increase literacy learning
Before launching the club, kids were required to fill out a club application stating why they wanted to join the club. They were also asked to complete a self-reflection survey about how they were doing in school in the areas of homework completion, showing respect, working hard and being helpful to others. Students who were on shaky ground were asked to sign an extra agreement with the understanding that in order to stay in the club during the next two months, they would need to maintain good academic and behavior status. This proved to be a huge motivator for a few students who made improvements with homework and behavior in order to keep their good standing.
In mid-March, we met for our first of five Cardboard L.I.T. Club meetings. Kids were free to pick a book from a huge selection of titles then groups were formed based on the titles chosen. The majority leaned towards ever-popular graphic novel titles while others selected Mercy Watson to the Rescue, Dork Diaries and Myths in 30 Seconds. From there the plan was simple. Kids were asked to read the book, discuss it with their group focusing on what mattered most, and finally, decide how to represent the story and characters using cardboard, paint and tape.
Other essential ingredients were snacks (we started each session with a “chat and chow” with kids talking to one another about what they were currently reading), parent and high school volunteers (a ratio of 1 helper to 5 kids is recommended), an abundance of cardboard (donations from local businesses), lots of collaboration (a.k.a. problem solving), a photographer/videographer (a visual record of progress) and time for cleaning up (keeping peace with the custodian is a priority).
Thanks to Caine and the “Cardboard L.I.T. Club,” we are ready to take on the Global Cardboard Challenge in October and will be expanding our club next year to the “Literacy L.I.F.T. Club” — Linking Imagination FUN and Text! Check out a little video showcasing our work.
I will be teaching two classes on August 5th at Resource Training and Solutions in St. Cloud, MN. The morning class will cover launching and coördinating a successful “Cardboard Club.” The afternoon class will offer an overview on using and creating videos in the classroom. Registration information can be found here.
Be sure to consider participating in the 2015 Global Cardboard Challenge on October 10th.
Each year members of the Minnesota Reading Association are invited to apply for grants to support classroom projects and/or book clubs for boys. The application process is very straightforward and do-able! The deadline is February 1st, 2016.