Out of the Box

Last week, while I was rushing around getting ready to leave for work, I was stopped in my tracks by a snippet of an NPR radio announcement playing in the background. The broadcaster was speaking about an upcoming interview with Paul Tough that was going to be aired later in the day. The words that I heard were something like, “curiosity and self control are better predictors of success than intelligence and test scores.”

This statement lingered in my mind throughout the day. It was reminiscent of a wonderful keynote address that I heard at an early childhood conference a few years ago. The speaker was the astrophysicist and director of New York City’s Hayden Planetarium, Neill deGrasse Tyson. His speech was unlike any other keynote that I’d heard before and I literally got goose bumps listening to him. His major point was that when he, or any other executive, interviewed a potential worker, he was never interested in the persons test scores or grade point average from high school or college. What he looked for in a candidate was the ability to think creatively and, as he said, “out of the box”. He also looked for someone with good social skills.

Schools today are being pressured to place their major emphasis on prepping students for standardized tests and pushing them towards reaching some predetermined reading levels which MUST be met by the end of the school year. Perhaps high test scores and reading levels can be achieved on a yearly timeline but at what cost to the child and to society?

If we consider the wise words of Mr. Tough and Mr. Tyson, we might question whether or not we are really preparing children to be successful adults when we implement curriculums that drain them of their creativity and eliminate opportunities for activities that encourage and enhance the development of social skills?

When I first saw this video of Caine’s Arcade on the Internet, it provoked me towards considering these thoughts: How did Caine think up this incredible project? What allowed him to stay with it for such a long time? What might have prevented him from (no pun intended) thinking out of the box? How can schools support this type of thinking and stamina? Could Caine have thought this up, worked through problems and produced this marvelous project if he had to keep to a timetable for completing it?

I wonder….

6 thoughts on “Out of the Box

    1. Renee Post author

      Thanks Barbara. It’s good to be reminded of the potential of children when we respect and trust their ideas, give them time and space to work and show them that we believe in them.


  1. Constance Norgren

    Dear Renee, Your blog consistently reminds us of the wonderful and important times that are possible in schools (and in this video of Caine’s Arcade, outside of schools!) – and of the intelligence and creativity and persistence of children who have guiding adults nearby who trust them…..thank you over and over! Connie

    1. Miriam Pope

      The blog, and Caine’s Arcade, brought to mind new words for the old song:

      Where have all the children gone?
      Long time prepping
      Where have all the children gone?
      With the flowers? No!
      Where have all the children gone?
      Gone to testing every one
      When will they ever learn?
      No space to ev…….er learn!

      Gone to graveyards, childhood, every one!

  2. Jodi Mahoney


    I just watched this video and finished watching it both with tears in my eyes and a huge smile on my face. First, thank you for sharing the clip with us.

    Caine’s dedication, imagination, improvisation and determination are so inspirational in this clip. I love that rather than complain all summer about going to work with his dad, that he created a cardboard arcade. Tape, boxes and some toys and Caine created a world that excited him, with the hopes of exciting others.

    Isn’t that what we all want anyway – for our passions to inspire and excite others. Two things strike me after watching the video: 1) putting digital gadgets aside, Caine was free to invent or be bored. This downtime allowed for ingenuity, deep thinking and reflection, growth, modifications and evolution. WOW! 2) Caine’s ownership of the project was something we’d all like to see in our own children and students. His passion led his work and enabled him to problem solve, market and grow his vision.

    This video spoke to me on so many levels, both personally and professionally. Professionally, it motivates me to help our teachers connect student passion to student work in order to better support ownership and self-motivation. Personally, it makes me want to hide all the digital gadgets in my house and most of the toys and see what happens next.


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