What can you do with an hour, a large box, some assorted IKEA packing materials, a few plastic fasteners, and some kids?

All kinds of cool things! We recently held another “open building” program at KCPL. This time, our building materials included one very large box, pieces of cardboard of various sizes, shapes, and thickness, some plastic hinges and fasteners, and plastic saw/punch tools. Those in attendance were given a few basic rules:

1. Only use the tools on the cardboard. :)

2. If you use the fasteners and take your creation home, the fasteners must be returned the next time you come to the library.

3. Have fun!

In this particular case, I decided to forego the formal book-reading that normally accompanies each program. Instead, I just allowed the kids to choose their materials, explained how the fasteners work, and set them to their tasks. Adults stayed with them- not because they were required to do so, but simply to enjoy the process. The stated age for the program was 6-12; I had a boy of 5 and his mom attend along with others who were all the “correct age” for the program. It is worth noting, I think, that all of the kids who attended, except the one boy who was technically too young for the program, were girls. This was not advertised as a program “for girls” but that is who chose to attend. Once I explained how the fasteners work, I suggested that anyone who wanted to was welcome to go out into the library to look for books that would give them building ideas. None of them chose to do so. Each of them chose to work on a creation of her own design. Several of the girls (sisters) worked together to create a unified theme, the others all chose to work individually.

While this was not a formal Global Cardboard Challenge (http://cardboardchallenge.com/) event, I did point out to those attending that there is such a thing. I shared the web address for the video Caine’s Arcade, upon which the Global Cardboard Challenge is based. (http://cainesarcade.com/dayofplay/). Several of the parents made notes and planned to watch the videos at home with their kids.

IMG_1779 While I invested in the plastic fasteners in order to use them for multiple programs, this is a program that can be done with absolutely zero financial outlay. Simply hoard boxes- paper boxes, packing boxes, moving boxes, (and if you’re lucky, refrigerator boxes!) provide some sort of kid-friendly cutting tools, and you’re ready! You may need to invest in a quantity of tape- masking tape works well- or challenge the kids to work without fasteners. That can be part of the engineering challenge- how to connect items without using fasteners! The fasteners I used are called Make-Do, and were acquired here: https://www.make.do/. A quick look at the website indicates that the type of fasteners we have are no longer available; what they offer now is slightly different. The saw/punches remain the same, but what they currently seem to offer is screws and screwdrivers. In the end, some of the kids also used cellophane tape. I would also like to note here that a week after the program, all the fasteners that went home had been returned to the library!

A variety of interesting things were created- from wagons to boats to picture frames, to houses. This turned out to be a terrific process-oriented program that really served to get the kids thinking about design and construction. I ultimately didn’t even really have any clean up from the program, as the left-over cardboard all went home with those who wished to continue their building later, since this was an evening program on a school night.

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