HANFORD — Something as plain as a cardboard box has inspired creativity across the world.

Now its inspiring students in the Hanford area.

The first Kings County Cardboard Challenge will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday Oct. 8 at the Kings County Fairgrounds where children of all ages can build objects out of cardboard and other items.

Education/Learning Coordinator Tammy Airheart of the Kings County Office of Education decided to try the event after watching the 2012 short film “Caine’s Arcade.”

The 11-minute documentary featured 9-year-old Caine Monroy, who created his own arcade in his father’s auto parts store in Los Angeles out of cardboard boxes and everyday objects. 

“Just listening to Caine speak about where he was and how it changed his life just making stuff with cardboard, it was just very powerful,” Airheart said. “It was very inspiring.”

Airheart wasn’t the only one inspired.

The film also led to the inspiration of the nonprofit Imagination Foundation. That started the Global Cardboard Challenge, which since 2012 had more than 500,000 children from more than 70 countries making things such as cars, robots and castles.

Airheart helped coordinate similar activities for different classes for students up to eighth grade in Kings County.

On Friday, similar activities were tested at Kings River-Hardwick Elementary School.

Math teacher Nancy Nagatani was trying to think of different ways to make learning in the classroom fun.

She was shown “Caine’s Arcade” by her husband and decided it was something she’d want her students to try.

When she finally decided to try it with her classes, she coincidentally saw a flyer for the event at the fairgrounds.

Dozens of students participated Friday.

“My kids needed something,” Nagatani said. “And it just took off. They’ve been talking about it all week. They were excited.”

Some of the games created Friday at the school’s basketball courts included ping pong tables, basketball nets, skee ball games, foosball tables and more, out of cardboard.

Eighth-graders Avery Estes, Hope Fernandes, Morgan Reese, Kristin Bray, Josh Reese and Chloe Olivas all worked on a drop ball game. Players stood at the top, dropped a ball down where it went past different pegs and obstacles before making its way to a chute with different numerical values for points awarded.

The group was inspired by the game “Plinko” on “The Price is Right” and spent free time building and decorating their game.

Nagatani said one of the biggest things students learned was troubleshooting and engineering. 

The first design involved a house where the ball went through the chimney.

“It just didn’t work out,” Kristin said.

So the group changed the design and added gutters at the bottom to make sure the balls made their way down the scoring chutes.

“It was fun just testing it out,” Kristin said. “Once it works, you feel like it was worth it.”

With Nagatani’s classes busy, some of the younger students in the school came out to watch. 

“It was funny because the little kids thought it was something for the big kids,” she said. “I told them it’s something they could be doing right now when they get home.”

For next week's Kings County Cardboard Challenge, Airheart found local businesses that were able to donate items such as recyclables, paint and tape to help students with their creations.

Airheart said the event has been in the planning stages for a year with hopefully more to follow. The popularity of the event will help them decide what to do with it moving forward.

“We’re hoping it becomes an annual thing,” Airheart said. "We just want students, parents and kids to come out and be creative.”

The reporter can be reached at 583-2431 or jbutters@HanfordSentinel.com. Follow him on twitter @jsbutters.

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