It can be a challenge in modern society for kids (and their parents) to put down their devices and let their imaginations run free. Held earlier this October at Walsh, the Cardboard Challenge gave the youth of Aledo Independent School District the ability to have their wildest dreams become cardboard reality with an interactive competition and a fun day of play all rolled into one.

Organized by the Fort Worth chapter of Camp Fire—an over 100-year-old national organization devoted to helping kids discover the spark within—Camp Fire’s 2017 Cardboard Challenge is but one event in a National “Day of Play,” a larger movement that began on imagination.org.

Imagining a world where creativity and entrepreneurship are core social values, the “Day of Play” was born with a viral video entitled “Caine’s Arcade.” Originally taped over five years ago, the clip captures how one 9-year-old child transformed tape and boxes into a functional arcade in his family’s auto parts shop.

“The goal is to get kids unplugged and (help them) understand there’s a number of avenues to make things happen—and they don’t need a screen to make it a reality.”

-Christy Jones, VP of Marketing & Communications, Camp Fire First Texas

“A videographer came into the store to get a car handle and taped the arcade,” explains Christy R. Jones, vice president of marketing and communications for Camp Fire First Texas. “(He) posted to this large blog meet-up site in Los Angeles, and all these people showed up to play his cardboard games. From there, a movement started to encourage every child to build something they could imagine or create out of cardboard and recyclable materials. It culminates in a month-long effort to get kids thinking outside the box—in the box!”

 

Setting an event like this at Walsh was a natural decision, according to Jones. “This is the first time Camp Fire and our after-school programs in both Aledo and Fort Worth are really focused. We thought (Walsh) fit well with our brand and our promises that kids can make a difference. They don’t need to wait until they’re adults to do something meaningful for themselves. We were fortunate enough to meet with the team there, and they were like, ‘Yeah, let’s do this.’ It’s the first time, but it’s not going to be the last time.”

After watching the viral video, some of the roughly 30 participants chose to build their projects at home and bring them to the event to complete them. Others grabbed supplies on site and pulled things together on the fly. With designs ranging from a cardboard fidget spinner (inspired by the Walsh Makerspace) to a “Reading Rocket” complete with lights and books, the cardboard creations begged for both adults and children to touch and explore what they were capable of doing. Games such as a ping-pong toss, Rube Goldberg-inspired contraption, and a functional cardboard Hot Wheels track embodied the spirit of Caine’s original arcade.

Entrants submitted their work in such fun categories as “Most Interactive,” “Tallest” and “Wow, What is That?!,” and all the winners took home a clever cardboard trophy. Both participating kids and judges from the community also voted on their favorites, with Aubrey Case and Kailee Hedge bringing home the “Kids’ Choice” and “Judges’ Choice” awards.

Because the Challenge was such a success, Jones says she hopes the event will become an even bigger tradition at Walsh in the years to come.

“One of our values is connecting kids with nature, but also connecting kids with each other,” she says. “This was one of those great opportunities to kind of meld those values and leverage what kids can learn from the video, but also step back and spend time thinking and working together. The goal is to get kids unplugged and (help them) understand there’s a number of avenues to make things happen—and they don’t need a screen to make it a reality.”