Students Take The Cardboard Challenge


By Jacquie O’Neill

Robert Seaman Elementary School Students recently took part in the Global Cardboard Challenge, an annual event that celebrates child creativity and the role communities can play in fostering it.

Students proudly display their work. (Photos by Darlene Pergola-Apolant)

Presented by the Imagination Foundation and inspired by the short film, Caine’s Arcade, the challenge spurred children of all ages to imagine and build a structure using cardboard and recycled materials. Each grade level in the elementary school had a different engineering design challenge as to encourage diverse projects. The criteria for the engineering challenge became more difficult as the grade level increased.

The kindergarten students designed and constructed 3D animals, based on their choice with their partner. The students used a colorful printed image of the actual animal as a basis for the design and construction of their animal using cardboard boxes, cardboard tubes and other recycled materials. The students then decorated their animals with a variety of art materials, including construction paper, feathers, fur, pipe cleaners, markers, cotton balls, animal print paper and wiggle eyes.

The students’ rendition of the Freedom Tower

The first grade children explored light energy and the spectrum using prisms and diffraction gratings. After being formally introduced to Roy G. Biv, they were challenged to design a 3D Fun House for Roy G. Biv using cardboard boxes and tubes. The second grade students worked collaboratively in groups as they designed haunted houses. After listening to a song about haunted houses for clues to include in their design, they were introduced to the Scooby Doo Mystery Mansion. This interactive toy has many parts which move using forces and simple machines, serving as inspiration for including the addition of a moving part in the criteria for their haunted houses.

After listening to the fractured fairy tale entitled, The Three Little Pigs-An Architectural Tale, by Steven Guarnaccia, the third-grade students designed tall structures using cups and paper to withstand wind and table-quakes. The students discovered cylinder columns were strongest since they could support the weight of multiple books—as opposed to the rectangular prism and the triangular prism.

Proud creators with their haunted works

The fourth-grade students were very excited to design and construct a castle using cardboard tubes, boxes and other recycled materials after listening to the story A Year in a Castle by Rachel Coombs. In addition to including five parts of a castle, they too were challenged to include a moving part in their castle. The students constructed catapults, which were used during the fun finale—Siege the Castle.

The fifth-grade students are immersed in an oceanography unit, which includes squid dissections, fish dissections, food web games, human impact simulations and research. They watched a short video about another school’s Cardboard Challenge Day (2014) using their “oceanography lens” to help generate ideas as they worked collaboratively to design and construct arcade games based on the oceanography theme. In addition to problem solving as they designed their arcade game, the fifth graders also formulated rules and point values for their games.

The inclusion of the school-wide Global Cardboard Challenge Day into the elementary science program at Robert Seaman Elementary School was very exciting and inspiring to the school’s young scientists and engineers. The event had the children thinking critically and creatively as they engaged in 21st century learning.


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Steve Mosco, former editor-in-chief at Anton Media Group, is a columnist for Long Island Weekly's food and sports sections. He fancies himself a tastemaker, food influencer and king of all eaters.

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