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The other day I was walking down my street crossing an alley when it began calling to me. In the corner of my eye was the magnetic force compelling me to draw near, something on any other day I would have rightfully ignored. However, today was unlike any other day and the large glimmering cardboard box begging me to give it the attention it deserved was no longer just a cardboard box. It was an endless opportunity. You see, last week I had the privilege of leading a Cardboard Challenge, with my friend and colleague Dina Rabhan, at the 2014 Innovation in Jewish Education conference (iJED) in New York and my relationship with cardboard will never be the same.

“Inspired by the short film, `Caine’s Arcade,’ the Global Cardboard Challenge is a worldwide celebration of child creativity and the role communities and schools can play in fostering it. (Organizer Playbook)”

The event challenges kids to create and build using cardboard, recycled materials and imagination.The first-ever Global Cardboard Challenge had 270+ events in 41 countries and to date there has been over 1 million kids from over 70 countries engaged in this event. It also paved the road for the Imagination Foundation, a non-profit guided by increasing creativity in our schools. Here is the follow up film to Caine’s Arcade where you can see the full impact finding the creativity in one child has had on the world.

However, while the attention has clearly been focused on Caine, the video reminds us that there is a Caine in all of our classrooms and, in my humble opinion, the true hero of this phenomenon is Nirvan.

You see it all started not because Caine was this awesome kid with such creative talents. Caine was awesome way before the first youtube viewer clicked play. It all began because one person, Nirvan Mullick, saw what was unique and special in Caine and took action. There are so many Caines around us, but it takes the adults in their lives to see them for what is unique and special about them, then take action to nurture it, support it and celebrate it. That is what Nirvan did and by doing so showed us not just how creative our students are and can be, but how important a great teacher is who recognizes their talents and does something about it.

At  iJED, we were given the wonderful opportunity to view Caines Arcade as a group and be surprised by the appearance of Nirvan himself after the showing. He inspired the crowd of amazing Jewish educators with his first hand telling of meeting Caine and all that followed. He then engaged in a Cardboard Challenge where the educators who participated were tasked with designing an interactive Jewish game out of the materials provided, which included 400 pounds of cardboard, markers, paints, toys, paper, glue and more. What followed was nothing short of breathtaking.

The effort put into these cardboard games and the sheer joy I saw on all the educators in that room was moving. What they created was thoughtful, creative and, frankly, much more than I had expected. Yet, to see the smiles, laughter and excitement was even more telling. Whether we are a young child or older adult, we all have capacity for creativity and it simply makes us happy. Why we don’t celebrate creativity more in our classrooms and encourage it as we get older is beyond me. It is a lifelong skill that is critical to success and one we have been promoting more and more in our schools as of late, but we need to see more of it. We are doing a disservice to our students and ourselves if we don’t value individual creativity. The educators at iJED modeled it so well and are primed to bring it back to their schools. Based on what I saw the future for Jewish education is bright as more students and staff will be given opportunities to create and be celebrated for their unique talents. Thank you Nirvan and thank you to all the Jewish educators who attended iJED and showed us that our students are in good hands.

You can check out the awesome games they created below:

iJED 2014 Cardboard Challenge from JFilms on Vimeo.

And if you are interested in running your own cardboard challenge in your school you can get everything you need right here: http://cardboardchallenge.com/ . It is pretty simple to put together and will:

  • engages student and/or educators in creative play

  • fosters creativity, ingenuity, resourcefulness, perseverance and teamwork

  • gives our student and/or educators an opportunity to explore their interests and passions, and make things that have an impact on others

  • provides an experience and model a method for schools to actively foster and celebrate child creativity which increases global happiness and makes for a happier, more playful world.

  • just be plain FUN! (from the Organizer Playbook)

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