BY EMILY GUEVARA
JACKSONVILLE — Four-year-old Vincent Herron climbed into the cardboard boxes that formed the frame of a pretend rocket with a makeshift plastic window.
As soon as he got inside pre-K teacher Sherry Thomas asked if he was ready.
“We’re (going to) send him to the moon!” Ms. Thomas, of Jacksonville ISD’s Fred Douglass Elementary School, said.
As she taped together boxes that formed the rocket, she asked the students some questions.
“What are you (going to) see on the moon?
“Astronauts,” some answered.
“You’re (going to) see the aliens,” another girl said.
Although the “rocket” Vincent sat inside of was nothing more than old cardboard boxes taped together, to him and his pre-K classmates, that was all they needed to feel like he was on a real spaceship.
“It’s amazing just seeing their minds create this,” Ms. Thomas said.
Vincent and his classmates were among the 660 students at Fred Douglass to participate in the first Cardboard Creation Day on Friday.
The event was part of a larger Global Cardboard Challenge started by the Imagination Foundation. Its purpose was to encourage creative thinking.
“There’s not going to be a limit to what they get to do today,” Ms. Thomas said.
The students spent three months planning and collecting cardboard for the project.
Some students worked with themes such as the pre-K students with the rockets and a fourth-grade class with “Star Wars.” A third-grade class built the New York City skyline with boxes.
In other classes, teachers let students come up with their designs either individually or in groups.
School counselor Erick Alvarez said the teachers and administrators were not hoping the students create anything predetermined.
Rather, the educators wanted the students to develop creative thinking.
“For us, it’s a skill that’s as important as reading as math as science,” he said.
The students also had to use problem-solving skills.
For example, one of the third-grade classes was having trouble cutting the cardboard with the scissors they had.
So, they thought about what they could build with large pieces of cardboard and came up with the New York City skyline.
In addition to these skills, the educators wanted the students to have fun, Alvarez said.
While collecting the cardboard, the school stored it in a covered patio area outside the building.
Additional pieces were stored in the school’s central hallway near the library.
Alvarez said at one point some people thought it was a trash pile and threw stuff in it. The school staff had to let them know it wasn’t.
“It is extremely inconvenient,” he said. “It is extremely messy.”
Yet the school saw fit to do this because they wanted to see what the students could come up with. After spending the entire day working on their projects, the public had the opportunity to view them that evening. The plan is for this to be an annual school event.