Thinking Outside (and Inside!) the Box

Parents of toddlers know this for a fact. Give your beloved wee darling a spectacular present that cost a small fortune and what will happen – every time? That’s right: he or she will play with the box.

The biggest, most elaborate, most colourful brand-name play castle or ride-on toy will sit gathering dust while the little dudes have a blast with cardboard. Now, an Ottawa school is taking the idea a big — and wonderful — step further.

W.O Mitchell Elementary School is participating in its first Cardboard Challenge during the month of September.  The imaginative venture springs from Caine’s Arcade: From a Movie to A Movement. To date, this movement has engaged one million kids in 70 countries in creative play through the use of cardboard.

It all started with Caine Monroy, a nine-year-old boy who spent the summer of 2011 building an elaborate arcade inside his dad’s auto parts shop. A film producer saw the finished product, produced a movie – and a movement was launched! You can find out all about it at

W.O Mitchell Vice-Principal Tracy Snarr says, “We want to increase awareness that imagination, creativity and innovation can be applied to all subjects, not just the arts.”  The goal is to engage students by allowing them to access curriculum expectations through inquiry-based learning. Yup, they’ll be using their noggins while having fun.

Caine’s first Global Cardboard Challenge took place in October 2012, with over 270 events organized in 41 countries on six continents.  Since then the number of children participating has shot through the (cardboard) roof.

Vice-Principal Snarr says people can support the local effort by donating recycled materials such as paper towel rolls, cereal boxes, empty Kleenex boxes or any other paper-based recyclable material.  If you’d like to volunteer or make a large donation please email

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