Education, K-12, Student Products, Teaching Tools

Makerspace Essentials – Cardboard

I am frequently asked for advice on what materials to purchase for school maker spaces.  I am definitely not an expert on this topic, but I have gotten a couple of grants for B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters) that have allowed me to try out different products.  I thought I would devote this week to sharing about a few items that I have judged to be well worth the money.

(If you intend to apply for a grant for a school maker space, be sure to research your district’s policies on spending grant money.  If you need to use approved vendors, then you should verify that you will be able to purchase the items you propose and that the vendor will accept your district’s preferred method of payment.)

Maker Space Essentials (2)

Obviously, you don’t need money to add cardboard to your maker space.  If you time things just right, you can get plenty of donations. The beginning and end of the school year will yield donations from teachers who are unpacking or cleaning out.  If you send out an e-mail to parents, they will be thrilled to contact you whenever they have empty boxes.  Local companies will also be more than happy to donate cardboard.  Mattress Firm, for example, partners with the Global Cardboard Challenge each year to provide cardboard for schools participating in that project.

One of our 2014 Cardboard Arcade games
One of our 2014 Cardboard Arcade games

One piece of advice I can offer after doing this for a couple of years is to ask donors to remove any packing peanuts or other filler before depositing boxes on your doorstep.  Those little pieces are impossible to sweep and you will find them clinging to your clothes months after your project is complete.

And that leads me to uses for the cardboard.  One of the activities that introduced me to the chaos and joy of making was the Global Cardboard Challenge, inspired by the video, “Caine’s Arcade.”  This year, some of our cardboard even got reused twice – first as arcade games and then as enrichment activities for rescued wild animals.

Once the Cardboard Arcade was done, our need for cardboard diminished but didn’t disappear.  My students use it for Genius Hour projects, leprechaun traps, and robot tracks.  Like the mother in Christina Katerina and the Box, you will frequently be certain that the cardboard has outlived its usefulness when one of your students will dream up another idea and yank a ragged piece from the jaws of the recycling bin.

Don’t get me wrong.  Cardboard is useful, but storing it is a pain. If your maker space is a corner of your classroom or even the desks of your students, you may need to be creative about where to put all of those boxes and pallets.  I do not have an easy answer for this – except to take a deep breath and accept the fact that you will not only be maneuvering around foosball games and cardboard obstacle courses, but a room full of students completely engaged in creating. It’s worth the chaos.

The great thing about cardboard is that it’s free.  You can augment it with some of the following supplies, however, if you have the funds and vendor approval:

  • Klever Kutters – I won’t say these are 100% safe since nothing is, but they are way safer than scissors!
  • Shipping/Packing tape – A good stock of this is super important.
  • Makedo tools – My students love the hole puncher and the safe saw.  Previous classroom packs included plastic hinges which were amazingly versatile.  However, beware, this company is based in Australia and often seems to be sold out of classroom kits.  I like their product, but it can be difficult to obtain due to vendor issues.  A similar product that I haven’t tried is McGroovy’s Box Rivets.

For ideas for Cardboard Box projects, check out this link, Global Cardboard Challenge, or my Make Pinterest Board.


Creative Thinking, Education, Fun Friday, K-12, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Videos

Powtoon Power

It’s Phun Phriday and I want to share this great Powtoon video that one of my students created to invite everyone to our Cardboard Arcade next week.  I love that he did this on his own time, and using a relatively new tool.

Creative Thinking, Education, Fun Friday, K-12

Gifts for the Gifted 2013

image from the Makedo Blog
image from the Makedo Blog

Last year, I started a series of Friday posts in November called, “Gifts for the Gifted.”  I teach gifted elementary students, and parents often ask me about possible gift ideas as the holidays approach.  If you missed last year’s posts, or would like to revisit them, here is a link to get you started.  Also, I keep a Pinterest board with gift suggestions.

By the way, don’t be fooled by the title.  “Gifts for the Gifted” just sounded better than “Gifts to Engage Your Kids in Learning While They Think They’re Just Having Fun.”

Also, I don’t get paid for these posts – so all of my suggestions are based on my very humble opinion.

To get this party started, I’m going to recommend you take a look at the Makedo website.  Let’s face it, besides when you move, the only other time you are faced with a bunch of boxes is during the holidays.  And Makedo can give your child the tools for transforming those boxes into characters, works of art, magical vehicles, and arcade games.  With guided kits, the new Box Props selection, and all sorts of child-friendly tools like saws, hinges, and clips, there will be no limit to your child’s imagination.

I got to experience the Makedo products firsthand when we participated in the Global Cardboard Challenge.  The students loved the flexibility that the hinges and clips gave them.  Some of them were frustrated with the saws, but others insisted on using them even when I offered to cut something out with the box-cutter.  More than a few completely changed their project designs when they saw the new options available to them from the kit I ordered.

You know those holiday afternoons when everyone is stuffed and zoned in front of the t.v., boxes and wrapping paper strewn everywhere? How about having a Family Cardboard Challenge?  Kids going stir crazy during those numerous days off from school?  Put them in a room with a bunch of boxes and a Makedo kit.  You will be amazed at the hours of intense concentration on creation!

If you want to inspire them, here are a couple of videos that might spark their imagination:

Caine’s Arcade

Above and Beyond

3-12, Creative Thinking, Education, Games, Problem Solving, Teaching Tools, Videos

Caine’s Arcade

Sometimes I feel like I live under a rock.  Two of my co-workers were talking about this video at lunch the other day, and I admitted that I had never heard of it.  Considering that the video has gotten over 2.5 million views, you would think that I might have come across it at some point.  Even after they discussed it, I still didn’t watch it until today when I saw it referenced in an on-line article.  “Oh, yeah, that did sound interesting,” I thought, and clicked on the link.  I am so glad I did!  It was definitely 11 minutes of my time not wasted.  Caine’s imaginative cardboard arcade will inspire you with its creativity, and his personality will endear him to you.

I read a book to my Gifted and Talented Kindergartners every year called Christina Katerina and the Box.  After we read the book, I dump a bunch of boxes I have saved onto a table along with random bits and pieces of things.  Then I let the kids create.  After seeing Caine’s Arcade, I realize that I need to do this more often – and with all of my classes.

You might want to show Caine’s Arcade to your students.  There is one part that I caught, when they were showing comments on social networks, that briefly flashes an inappropriate word.  If you are concerned about this, or you just want to show key parts of the video, I recommend TubeChop.

Learn more about the Global Cardboard Challenge inspired by Caine’s Arcade here.

Caine’s Arcade from Nirvan Mullick on Vimeo.