Cardboard Challenge channels creativity, imagination

Using mostly cardboard and various other materials, younger children from the Children’s School could be heard shrieking in delight, running around through the miniature city that was being assembled in the center of Stevenson Quad last Friday.  With the assistance from student volunteers and staff members, the city within Stevenson grew to include a solar-powered pet shop, a train and even a café.  

“The goal is to encourage imagination and experimentation, collaboration and problem solving, all with repurposed, recycled materials,” said Pamela Van Halsema, who coordinated the Cardboard Challenge on campus. “We know this is important from the youngest preschooler all the way through college and adulthood.  Sometimes the best ideas come through play, through tinkering.

Halsema believes everyone is a creative maker inside, and those skills can be intentionally developed with practice.

“We think you need to start early to cultivate a mindset for lifelong learning and creativity,” said Halsema.  “These are entrepreneurial skills that will be essential for innovation as our communities face environmental and economic challenges in the future.” 

The program was organized by the Startup Classroom that combines students from the schools of Education with the School of Business and Economics.  The idea is to promote innovation and entrepreneurship, based in the ideas that the Schools of Education as well as

Business and Economics could learn and grow together. 

“The Cardboard challenge was a place where the adults had as much fun as the kids,” said Senior Tyler Sewell.  

Sewell was one of the many volunteers that helped facilitate the challenge. The original Global Cardboard Challenge came about through a viral video of the story of a young boy’s dream to run his homemade arcade.  The idea began with a boy name Caine who built an arcade out of cardboard in the back of his father’s car part store. One day, Caine received his first customer who was inspired to make a video.  

The video went viral and people from all over the world went to Caine’s Arcade to see what the boy had done.  Realizing the potential to make a difference, Caine and his first customer made a video challenging people all over the world to join the “Global Cardboard Challenge.”  

The movement has spread across the country to encourage children to understand the importance of their own creativity to utilize cardboard and easily accessible tools to see their dreams to reality.  

“The Cardboard Challenge is an amazing opportunity to allow kids to develop their imagination and creativity” said senior and volunteer Karina Serrano.

Taking place on Friday, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. volunteers helped students from the Children’s School create this city made from cardboard.  The city included a bell tower, train, café, pet shop – even a solar powered jail that children could sit in and peer out from behind the cut out cardboard bars. The train, named “SSU Choo Choo” was stationed in the center of the city, letting curious onlookers sit inside each of the four cars.  

“Collaborating with 4-year-olds, that’s how you get things done,” said volunteer and senior Sasha Wroten said.

Like many Cardboard Challenge participants around the world, the entire event was extremely well documented.  Both filmed and photographed, the story of the cardboard city at Sonoma State will premier on Sustainability Day (Oct. 21) in the Green Music Center. 

“I enjoyed helping the children create the item they imagined by cutting the cardboard since they couldn’t use the sharp blades,” said Senior Grace Martinez.  “We found Sonoma State’s happiest place on Earth with these children.”

Those looking for further information on the challenge are encouraged to contact the Sonoma State Children’s School or visit