Inspiring Creativity, Entrepreneurialism and Making: Global Cardboard Challenge

Throughout September, students have been hard at work building anything they can dream up out of cardboard and recycled materials. The month long event culminates for a day that commemorates the flash mob, and short film — Caine’s Arcade.

The short film about nine year old Caine Monroy’s arcade made of cardboard games, is the inspiration behind the Global Cardboard Challenge. Block parties, show-and-tells, and open houses are being held throughout the country. For more on how you can celebrate, check out

This interview-blog with Mike McGalliard, Founding Executive Director of the Imagination Foundation (where Tom serves on the board), originally appeared on’s Disruptors series. The foundation hosts the Global Cardboard Challenge and supports 130 local Imagination Chapters.

The Imagination Foundation is nurturing children’s natural creativity and entrepreneurialism through Global Challenges to raise a new generation of innovators. Its new vision for education is to provide children with the skill set to be active Changemakers.

1. How is education keeping up with the 21st century?

If we think of “education” as “schooling”, then education is having a lot of trouble keeping up with the pace and expectations of the 21st century. But if we understand that education is happening everywhere, all the time (and that school is just one part of a vast learning ecosystem) then the valuable question isn’t how it’s keeping up, but how do we better leverage all this wealth of informal learning? And the question for schools is, how can they better get out of the way?

2. Why does it have catching up to do?

The skill set kids are expected to learn in school and the skill set they need to function well in life and work are totally out of sync. School is still very much about fact acquisition, and students are treated as consumers. But my seven year old daughter can get all the facts she needs in a matter of seconds from Siri.

School is becoming increasingly irrelevant, at least with regard to its intended purpose. It’s impossible to catch up to Siri. School needs to be something very different. My vision for school is that it’s a safe place for children to experiment with ideas, try things out, make stuff. Think of dad’s garage – a place to tinker. And I imagine teachers as designers of learning experiences.

3. What are the skills a child needs to master to become an active changemaker?

We like to talk about creative self-efficacy, which is a set of skills and attitudes that enable children to find problems and build solutions using whatever resources are at their disposal. You see creative self-efficacy in action when kids build stuff. Whether their tools are 3-D printers, circuits and digital code, or whether they are cardboard and junk they pulled from the trash. Just build! The good news is that children naturally possess these skills and attitudes, and the role of parents, educators and other adults is more to spark creativity than teach it.

4. What is your vision for the future of your work and of education?

We all want the best for kids, right? Whether or not we have our own kids, we all want the best. If even for selfish reasons, we want to raise an awesome next generation, because in the not too distant future, our lives and world will be in their hands. And I think we rely too heavily on schools to raise that generation, especially considering it only takes up something like 9 per cent of a child’s total time.

The potential of that other 91 percent is what I want to help unlock. Part of my goal is to demystify education and learning, to show it isn’t that complicated to tap into child genius. And though we respect the teaching profession, there’s a significant role that everyone can play, anytime they cross paths with children, even if it’s as simple as giving them space to be creative, or a high five for that crazy invention.

For more check out:

Mike McGalliard is Founding Executive Director of the Imagination Foundation

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