Most people look at a spare piece of cardboard as something to recycle or toss.

For Stevenson Elementary School students, the material was fuel for their creativity.

As part of the school's annual All Arts Day, held April 20, second- and third-grade students spent part of their time working on the Cardboard Challenge in the gym.

"Their task is to build something using only cardboard, duct tape and their imagination," said Stevenson art teacher Laura Bova, who helped coordinate this year's All Arts Day.

The annual program immerses students in a day of art-related activities.

The event began with an all-school assembly featuring a performance by the Madcap Puppets theatrical troupe.

Students then rotated among a number of stations and activities led by local artists and parent volunteers, Bova said.

"We try to come up with a variety of fun activities that will allow them to explore the range of visual and performing arts," she said.

All Arts Day is designed to provide students with collaborative opportunities for hands-on learning and participation in the arts and an authentic experience by meeting and working with artists, performers and musicians, Bova said.

"We want them to see that everyone can find a way to create and express themselves," she said.

The Cardboard Challenge is a global program inspired by a short film about a cardboard arcade created by a boy in Los Angeles. Students worked in pairs on their projects.

"Students are given a number of prompts and they can choose the one they want to work on," Bova said. "It could be building a castle out of cardboard or a robot. What I love about this activity is that they're using their imagination and working collaboratively to create something wonderful out of something so simple as cardboard."

Second-graders Sam Russell and Benji Gusty chose to build a sports room.

"We both like sports, so we thought it would be fun to make something that has to do with sports," Benji said. "We put in a basketball goal so you can shoot baskets."

The Cardboard Challenge was his favorite part of All Arts Day, Sam said.

"I like it because you get to create and build anything you want," he said. "That's what's fun about art."

Other activities offered students the chance to create using more-traditional art materials and practices.

Outside the school, students worked to paint the stairs leading from the staff parking lot to the school.

At stations inside the school, students got to practice dancing with Chloe Napoletano of BalletMet and work on clay projects with an instructor from the Bareclay pottery and art studio.

At the Become a Masterpiece station, students in kindergarten and first grade participated in a tableau vivant (French for living picture) by assuming the poses of subjects in famous works of art.

Polaroid photographs were taken of the students' living pictures.

"It's a fun way to introduce really young students to great paintings," Bova said. "Depicting the subjects themselves gives them a connection to the art."

Students could create their own artwork in a station led by Marvel comics illustrator David Tevenal.

Tevenal, who splits his time between New York City and Columbus, is the father of a Stevenson student.

"I gave them some options for superhero characters they could draw, like Spider-Man, Batman and Batgirl," Tevenal said. "They could create their own drawings or color in drawings I'd already created. That way, no one felt left out, no matter what their artistic ability."

The youngsters' drawings were revelatory, Tevenal said.

"What I love about kids is that they are honest. They don't have any filters," he said. "They're going to draw Spider-Man the way they see him, and in doing that, they're revealing something about themselves and how they see the world."

The climax of All Arts Day was the installation of the new 5 Columns Project on the school lawn.

Stevenson students have been working with Eric Paton, head of world music at Capital University, on creating buffalo drums.

"What's great about this project is that it involved students from all grade levels," said Brian Pettit, Stevenson's music teacher.

"We had students from the high school industrial-technology classes cut the wood for the drums, students from the middle school art club glued the bases together, and our students stretched the rawhide."

Through the project, the elementary schoolers not only got to explore percussion and African music styles, but also learned how a drum is made, Pettit said.

As with each 5 Columns project, the goal not only is to involve students through their interaction with an artist in residence, but the entire community, said Henrietta Cartwright, project coordinator.

The dozen or so drums installed on the lawn will remain in place for the coming months for residents to view and use, she said.

"We've put some chalkboard material over some of the drums so people can use chalk paint and add their touches to the drums," Cartwright said. "Of course, we invite anyone to step up and play one of the drums if they have the notion."

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