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Students Across CCSD Prep for 2017 Cardboard Challenge

Ryan Baumbusch used a variety of materials to build a realistic replica of a McCall Smokejumper Float Plane for the 2017 Cardboard Challenge.

“I built it out of cardboard, string, duct tape, styrofoam, skewers and saran wrap,” said Baumbusch, who is a third-grader at Cherry Hills Village Elementary.

But more impressive than his materials list was his subject matter knowledge. A vacation visit to the McCall Smokejumper Base in McCall, Idaho sparked a quest for knowledge about all things related to smokejumpers.

“They are firefighters but they fight forest fires and they parachute out of planes,” Baumbusch explained. “They don’t have the same gear as firefighters… They wear a yellow coat and green pants and a hard hat and they use an ax and hoe combination to make a firebreak.”

That kind of passion is a common denominator among the 600 plus students in elementary, middle and high school who participated in the 5th Annual Cardboard Challenge held Oct. 12 at Smoky Hill High School. The event, which is sponsored by the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation, is a celebration of creativity; students build remarkable creations out of nothing but cardboard, recycled materials and their own imaginations.

This year’s event featured dozens of colorful creatures, including a detailed hummingbird and a dinosaur that walked and turned its head this way and that, controlled by its creators who wore the beast like a costume. There were creative contraptions ranging from a human-powered vending machine to an emoji typewriter. Smoky Hill High School freshman Erica Garrison-Norris demonstrated a hydraulic powered drawbridge that she devised through trial and error.

“We’re never done with our models, so we’re always building and learning new things as we go along,” she said.

Parent Andy Baumbusch said the Cardboard Challenge helped his son learn about patience and perseverance as well as creativity and critical thinking.

“He certainly got the notion of having to commit a fair amount of time and he also came upon some tough issues to surmount,” Baumbusch said. “He couldn’t quite get the wings to balance so he had to do some creative problem-solving.”

The Cardboard Challenge is part of the Global Cardboard Challenge, an international movement to engage children in creative play. It was inspired by Nirvan Mullick’s 2011 short film “Caine’s Arcade,” about 9-year-old Caine Monroy, who spent his summer vacation building an elaborate cardboard arcade.  It aligns with the mission of the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation, which includes providing opportunities that impact all CCSD students, investing in innovation and building long-term relationships in the community.

The Foundation recruited dozens of volunteer judges for the event, many from local businesses, including the companies that helped sponsor the event; Arrow, Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children,  Internet Essentials by Comcast and Westerra Credit Union. The judges evaluated the projects on the basis of creativity, use of cardboard and recycled materials and construction, and selected finalists in four categories; kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, middle school and high school. It wasn’t an easy task.

“What I’ve seen tonight has been nothing short of inspirational and absolutely incredible,” said first-time judge Charles Gilford, who also serves on the Foundation's Board of Directors. “There are projects that are creative and have programming and all these other dynamic things and then there are things that are more artistic and how we value both is so important. Every kid gave their concerted effort and what I love about it is it sparks creativity.”

Congratulations to all of the Cardboard Challenge participants and this year’s winners:

Our Impact This Year

  • Grants Awarded to Educators


  • Students Impacted


  • Scholarships Awarded


  • Donated to Mental Health


  • JHL Constructors
  • United Healthcare
    United Healthcare
  • Westerra Credit Union
  • Ed and Kacy Adams
    Ed and Kacy Adams

    Ed and Kacy Adams

  • Margie and Joe Adams
    Margie and Joe Adams

    Margie and Joe Adams

  • DLR Group

    DLR Group

  • Aurora Housing Authority
    Aurora Housing Authority

    Aurora Housing Authority

  • CCA Foundation
  • Johnson Controls
    Johnson Controls

    Johnson Controls

  • Health One
  • Aon
  • 1st Bank
  • MDC Richmond Foundation
  • CCS Facility Services
  • CU Denver
    CU Denver
  • Butler Snow
  • Stifel
  • ANB Bank
    ANB Bank

    ANB Bank

  • Plante Moran
  • Saunders
  • Adolfson & Peterson Construction
  • MA Meyer Construction
  • GTC Construction
    GTC Construction
  • Aurora Chamber of Commerce
    Aurora Chamber of Commerce
  • Kore


  • Kaiser Permanente
    Kaiser Permanente
  • JP Morgan
    JP Morgan

    JP Morgan

  • Alpine Bank
  • Credit Union of Colorado
    Credit Union of Colorado
  • Cuningham Architecture
  • OS Schools
    OS Schools
  • Jacobs
  • Hord Coplan Macht
  • Meteor Education
  • Knoll Team
  • Jacobs
  • CCEA
  • BC Interiors
  • Hilltop Securities
  • Piper Sandler & Co
  • RBC Capital Markets
  • RTA
  • Meteor Education
  • Haselden
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