behavior · children · creativity · play

Creative Play Out of Old Boxes

I celebrated my daughter’s third birthday this past weekend.

She asked for a train-themed party, so of course we had to have the obligatory pink train cake (it sure felt obligatory based on how insistently she asked for it).

Pink Chocolate Choo Choo Train cake, as requested by the birthday girl.
Pink Chocolate Choo Choo Train cake, as requested by the birthday girl.

Although we had it at the park intentionally so the kid guests (and grown ups) could run around and climb on things, I also wanted to offer some sort of “activity” the kids could do while the parents actually sat down to relax and enjoy other adults’ company.

I grabbed four largish boxes and brought them to the park, along with crayons and stickers. I set the boxes up to look vaguely like a train, with one taped to the front box like it was a smoke stack, and invited everyone who wanted to to decorate the train as they saw fit. After they ate their cake (because, priorities), the kids all jumped into the train, from the one-year-old to the five-year-old, and proceeded to stay there for almost an hour jumping in and out of the boxes, decorating, adding stickers, often tipping the boxes over and falling out onto the grass, but laughing and getting right back in.

train team_1

It was definitely the highlight of the birthday party.

I am glad that I took a chance and brought these boxes and crayons for the kids. It cost no money (I had all of these items laying around my house already), and it let the kids do some creative make believe play that they might not have gotten to do otherwise. It was something that all ages of kids could do independently or collaboratively as they so chose.

Parents lament that kids tend to like the box more than the present that came in it. I say bring on the box!

architecture · creativity · culture · environment · work

Twitter to Install 19th Century Log Cabins in its SF Headquarters | Inhabitat

Do you think better in a small, cozy place, or something a little more rustic than modern offices? Twitter now has got its employees covered in that department.

Employees at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters will soon have a chance to tap their creativity inside repurposed 19th century log cabins. The tech company has made a plan to install two homesteader cabins salvaged from historic ranches in Montana. The cabins will be installed within an open area in the headquarters, and serve as a creativity-inducing dining area.

The cabins, which are nicknamed Stanford and Belt to honor the Montana towns they were sourced from, will join other salvaged materials in the Twitter offices. Twitter’s logos throughout the office are made from reused California license plates, and the reception desk is made from salvaged bowling alley planks.

Like other tech companies in Silicon Valley, Twitter’s office is chock full of gimmicky but enjoyable features to inspire its employees. The refurbished office includes a yoga studio, rooftop garden, arcade and culinary treats like a cupcake shop, all clad in salvaged wood. The cabins are expected to be installed in the coming weeks.

more via Twitter to Install 19th Century Log Cabins in its SF Headquarters | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building, or from its source CBS.

Going into a novel space, or even a space that feels special, can really boost creativity and/or help people focus on a project. It can also help to have some place quiet and private to concentrate and really dive in to something, whether it’s a log cabin at work or just a small “phone booth” style room.

What small, perhaps quirky, space do you use for yourself to get work done? Let us know about it in the comments below.

anthropology · children · community · creativity · culture · design · environment · music

In New Documentary “Landfill Harmonic” Music Students Scrape Together their Instruments from Trash

The kids show off their instruments

Making music is a pretty powerful thing. Especially if you’re making it out of recycled objects and keeping things out of landfills.

“Landfill Harmonic,” an upcoming documentary scheduled for release in 2014, tells the story of an orchestra whose musicians play instruments made from trash. The film is set in the town of Cateura, Paraguay, which is built on a landfill. Many of the town’s residents collect trash to recycle and sell for money, and many of the town’s children are susceptible to getting involved with gangs or drugs. A music program was set up to help keep the kids out of trouble, but because so many of them were interested, there was soon a shortage of instruments.

more via In New Documentary, ‘Recycled Orchestra’ Makes Instruments from Trash | Earth911.com.

Music, like play, has been shown to have so many cognitive benefits, and emotional as well (plus even the act of music is called “playing”). There is something very deeply rooted in humanity about playing music, it is wonderful that through ingenuity and creativity these kids can channel their energy into the incredible power of making music. Plus the fact that they’re keeping things out of landfills is just a double bonus!

More information: https://www.facebook.com/landfillharmonicmovie?fref=ts

Kickstarter project: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/405192963/landfill-harmonic-inspiring-dreams-one-note-at-a-t

behavior · creativity · environment · play

Boat Bumbers as elephant toys

An elephant named Chai carries a boat bumper around with her trunk. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

This time of year we often think of playing in boats and recreation on the water. But sometimes one kind of play can inspire an entirely different kind. I came across this great blog post from Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA, about how recycled objects like boat bumpers make great toys, especially for larger critters:

Our elephants have a number of toys, or, in zoo-speak, Environmental Enrichment Devices (EED) that are designed to bring out their instinctual behaviors, along with all the naturally enriching elements in their exhibit like trees, logs, leaf piles, water and different ground coverings. The elephants have quite an array of EEDs, and one of their favorites is a boomer ball, which we often fill with treats. But constantly purchasing more boomer balls (since the elephants can be a bit destructive with them) can be a little costly. So, what’s a zookeeper to do? We think outside the box, er, ball.

With a background working with marine mammals, I thought back to my days of playing with dolphins. We would throw boat bumpers and buoys in with the 800-pound critters, and play endless games with them. So, how would an 8,000-pound animal react to one?

To get my answer I ventured to West Marine to see if we could acquire a couple of boat bumpers to test out on these playful pachyderms. Lo and behold, I discovered that not only did the manager have a couple to spare, but that in the summertime, they often receive dozens each week. Finding a new and revitalized way to keep them out of the landfill was refreshing to him, and getting free toys for the animals at the zoo was exhilarating for me!

We hung a boat bumper up in the barn, and put another in an EED container to protect it from getting squished too soon. It didn’t take Bamboo long to figure out where the hole was located so she could get the treats out. It took a little encouragement from us for Bamboo to notice the hanging bumper, but once she realized it, too, held treats, it was game on, and she batted it non-stop until she was certain every morsel was out.

To see how the other elephants reacted, read the rest of the blog post.

Congrats to Woodland Park Zoo and West Marine for keeping stuff out of the landfill and making some elephants very happy!

architecture · community · creativity

Recycled houses from around the world

I saw this article about a house made out of plastic bottles…

With a serious housing shortage but no shortage of plastic bottles littering the streets, the Development Association for Renewable Energies (DARE) – an NGO based in Nigeria – decided to build this incredible two-bedroom bungalow entirely out of plastic bottles! Although many in Kaduna were dubious when the project began construction in June this year, the nearly-complete home is bullet and fireproof, earthquake resistant, and maintains a comfortable interior temperature of 64 degrees fahrenheit year round!

This led to further searches, and found some other cool houses made out of reused materials:

Architects and homeowners are gradually discovering the benefits of shipping container homes. It turns out that the strong, cheap freight boxes make pretty useful building blocks. They can be loaded with creature comforts and stacked to create modular, efficient spaces for a fraction of the cost, labor and resources of more conventional materials. Shipping containers can be easily insulated and climate controlled, and they are being deployed as disaster relief shelters and modest vacation homes. In stacking configurations they are appearing as student housing and even luxury condos.

 

Plus for all you survivalists out there, they would be a great start to a less conspicuous (if left au naturale on the outside), possibly fit with a grounding net against EMPs, and generally fire proof.

 

Salvaged wine corks, which are easy to come by, provide an inexpensive form of cork flooring.
This Boeing 727 carried in the past passengers for South Africa Air and Avianca Airlines (Columbia). Today it is suspended on a 50 foot pedestal on the edge of the National Park, in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.

Lots more here and here. What other houses made out of recycled houses have you seen?

One question I have, however, is how well some of these houses actually blend into the environments they’re built. Are they actually beneficial to the Earth because they keep this stuff out of the landfill? Does it make the families who live in these places’ lives better? Thoughts?

behavior · design

Nicole Howell’s ‘Toss With Care’ Trash Can Good for Sustainability, Homelessness | Inhabitat

I am an aggressive (yet polite!) reuser/recycler, and always on the hunt for effective ways to encourage people to divide and conquer their trash, so to speak. This looks like a great idea.

The Pratt Institute for Design is known for its phenomenal furniture design students as well as architects, artists, graphic designers, but for trash can designers? Yes, that’s right, recent graduate Nicole Howell turned her ‘Toss With Care’ trash can design thesis project into a full on mission to better understand homelessness in New York City, and along the way, she became fascinated with trash divers. Her project, Toss with Care, which developed out of her initial experiment the trashpoline, was design to not only act as a traditional trash receptacle, but also a recycling can and a place for edible leftovers for street dwellers in search of food.

more via Nicole Howell’s ‘Toss With Care’ Trash Can Addresses Homelessness & Sustainability in NYC | Inhabitat New York City.

I wish there was a consumer model for this; of course, it wouldn’t be that hard to replicate…hmm….