Tag Archives: Global Cardboard Challenge

Texas Big, Big Tex

The fairest of days.

The State Fair of Texas  opened this past Friday in Dallas’ historic Fair Park . This annual fair premiered in 1936 as Texas celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Texas Republic. Many of the original Art Deco buildings and artwork are still intact and comprise the largest historical complex of this kind in the United States. Seventy-six years ago, world’s fairs were a popular way to introduce new products, agricultural advancements and far-away, “exotic” places to the general public as most people were not able to travel across continents as we are now.

Attending the annual State Fair in Dallas continues to be a big deal. For many school districts, free tickets magically appear in teacher’s mailboxes and kids have a legit “Fair Day”, allowing schools to release early, or close completely, so kids and their families can attend on opening day. Administrators may spend hours of anxiety and suspense trying to determine if school should be cancelled for a freak snow or ice storm, but keeping school open on Fair Day? Not a chance.

Personally, I never liked the fair for a variety of reasons that aren’t worth going into. I’ve only been one time and it was a major disappointment. Of course, admitting this might be grounds for people in the Dallas area to picket my house and if they also knew I wasn’t planning on voting Republican in this upcoming election, they might just tie me up and dangle me off of Big Tex’s Stetson Hat.

In my post last week, I wrote that my 6th grade art students had accepted the Global Cardboard Challenge. I announced to my class that their creations should be based on “carnival rides” as it related to the State Fair of Texas. Our school is an exceptionally fortunate private school and we have access to a glorious array of professional quality art materials. However, I limited their supplies to cardboard, packing tape, rubber bands, pom-poms, pipe cleaners and toilet paper tubes and I have never seen so much excitement contained within four walls! Their ideas are fantastic and I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen such enthusiasm! They are engaged, sitting on the floor, working at tables and standing on chairs to make towers and zip lines. They are having so much fun that I’ve had to raise my voice and practically kick them out of my room to go home at the end of the day. Actually, this is a good problem to have.

Looking for images to give them further ideas, I came across some interesting facts about Big Tex, the State Fair of Texas’ mascot. Did you know that Big Tex started out as Santa Claus? Accounts vary of Santa’s original height to be somewhere between 49 and 59 feet. Mr. Claus was made from iron-pipe drill casing and paper mache. His beard was made from unraveled, seven-foot lengths of rope. He was built to bolster the 1949 holiday shopping season in the town of Kerens, Texas, but by 1951, the novelty had worn off and Santa was sold to the State Fair of Texas for $750.00. Dallas artist, Jack Bridges, was hired to transform Santa into Tex.

In her book, The Great State Fair of Texas, author, Nancy Wiley notes some interesting facts. Rising high above the crowds, Big Tex, weighs in at 6,000 pounds. He debuted in 1952, donning new jeans, a 50-pound belt and buckle, plaid shirt, 75-gallon hat and size 70 cowboy boots. Forging ahead in subsequent years, and setting the bar for Dallas reconstructive surgeries, Tex underwent cosmetic surgery to straighten his nose, hinge the jaw of his mouth so he could talk, and correct a lascivious wink. I’m not sure the surgery was entirely successful because he still looks dysmorphic and creepy and likely is the culprit of many a child’s haunting nightmares. In 2000, Tex was made to wave his hand to the crowds as they passed by on their way to dump millions of dollars on food and amusement rides down the, appropriately named, “Million Dollar Midway”. The estimated annual economic impact of the Dallas-Fort Worth economy is $350 million.

Without a doubt, Big Tex is the symbol of the State Fair of Texas. Although his looks are deceiving, his famous words, “H-O-W-D-Y, folks! Welcome to the State Fair of Texas!” welcome all to come spend money, eat fried bubble gum and be entertained by gazing at large sculptures of butter. And in case you are curious, you are welcome to bring in your concealed weapon as long as you don’t take it into the Cotton Bowl. This is Texas after all.

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Caine’s Arcade and the Global Cardboard Challenge

Let’s play!

I’ve taught art at my school for almost 12 full years. This means that a child who entered kindergarten in 2001 (my first year of teaching) will be graduating in 2013. It’s a strange feeling to realize I’ve been a mentor and faculty member through the complete cycle of a child’s pre-college, educational life. I’ve been at my school long enough that I’ve taught all the siblings of many families. For the most part, my seventh graders are the youngest members of their families. I’ve taught, watched and nurtured their brothers and sisters in previous years. Typically, my youngest students, who are in fifth and sixth grade, have younger siblings, not older.

Over these twelve years, the concept of play has really changed. I can remember not owning a cell phone when I first started teaching twelve years ago. Now most sixth graders have iPhones of their own. Often “to play” is something kids do with their iPads in the back seat of the SUV their parents use to drive them back and forth from one after-school activity to another. Sure there’s still sports, but it’s about competition and looking good and getting scholarships. Although I haven’t witnessed this first hand, our lower school art teacher told me that when she was giving a demonstration about rolling out clay and cutting out shapes, she asked her students if this reminded them of making Christmas cookies at home during the holidays. When she got blank stares and no response, she asked if they ever made Christmas cookies with their families and they eagerly said “Yes!” but their cookies came pre-decorated in a refrigerated log shape and you just sliced them with a knife.

This week, while “playing” on the internet, I came across a heartwarming story about a little boy named Caine. This young, 9-year old boy went with his father each day to the family owned auto parts supply store in east Los Angeles. It was boring; really dull for this little boy. So, he started building an arcade out of cardboard boxes that he found around his dad’s shop. His arcade grew in size, as did his imagination. When the arcade was built, no one would stop and play. Everyone was too busy; no one could spend the time to play at his elaborate arcade. And then one day he had a customer, and his whole life changed. Please give yourself a gift by watching this short film. Grab a child and watch this story, and then let me tell you what happened in my art room.

After watching this, my heart melted. I knew I wanted to share it with my students. I then watched a second short film about what has happened since the film debuted on the internet last year. In short, the Imagination Foundation was established and money is being raised to “find, foster and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in kids.” On October 6, 2012, the Global Cardboard Challenge will premier around the world!  To take part, simply make something out of cardboard and invite the world to play.

This week I showed my sixth graders these two films. They were spellbound; quiet as mice while watching Caine’s story. Afterward, I told them that I wanted our class to accept the Global Cardboard Challenge, and, in tribute to the State Fair of Texas, which opens on September 28, I wanted my students to pair up and design carnival rides! The excitement in class was frenzied as students grabbed for paper and pencil to start designing their ride. The following day, two children met me before school, with bags of supplies to donate to the project. Two girls told me they talked on the phone the previous evening for a couple of hours planning out their ride! Children arrived eager to design and build the following day and our cardboard carnival is currently being constructed with rudimentary objects such as paper towel rolls, cardboard, popsicle sticks, string, paper plates, toothpicks and rubberbands. Now this, my friends, is PLAY!

Will you accept the challenge to build and play in the Global Cardboard Challenge?

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