Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Box It Came In

When something is very, very valuable and/or very, very fragile and you need to move down the block or around the world, it needs to be packed very, very carefully.

A few weeks ago we managed to acquire a crate that was recently used to move a half million dollar sculpture by the artist Alexander Calder. 

This is an amazing piece of furniture. I call it that because that's how well built it is; made to withstand pretty much anything. The wood itself is what I'd call "furniture grade" and it's built to withstand pretty much anything that could happen during move.

The inside is lined with 1-inch thick foam core, cut to precisely fit around the inside walls, then there is a 2-inch layer of spongy foam inside of that. The artwork itself was packed inside of another box that went inside this one and all the dead space was filled with inflatable packing material.

I introduced it by saying, "We have this box."

"What's inside?"

"What do you think is inside?"

We spent some time wish-guess: "Candy," "Tigers," "A truck." We listened to hear if it was making any noise. We smelled it. Finally I suggested, "Maybe there are some words that tell us what's inside."

The kids crawled around outside the box, finding the various labels.

"I think it's full of umbrellas." And sure enough there was an icon of rain falling on an umbrella to warn the shippers that the crate ought not get wet.

"There's broken glass in there! . . . I don't think there's broken glass in there," said one child, confused by the icon of broken stemware intended to suggest that the contents were fragile.

Everyone agreed that the arrow that pointed up meant that we had the right side up.

I read the words on some of the labels to them. We learned that whatever was inside must weight 74 pounds and that it either came from, or was going to, a place called Long Island City. One of the children had been to Long Island before and told us about her cousins' house.

After all of that, I was actually starting to worry that they kids would be disappointed to find it empty when we finally opened it, but that fear was unfounded. Several of the kids immediately clambered inside, bouncing on the squishy foam bottom. 

We discovered that it held 4 children at a time. I asked if they wanted to get "mailed" somewhere and they agreed they wanted to go to Long Island City, so everyone ducked their heads while I placed the heavy lid over them. Several of us pounded on the top with our fists saying we were hammering it on tightly. When we opened it, they were in Long Island City! Welcome! We played this game over and over with different kids and different destinations.

We then tested out the protective properties of the crate and all that foam by "dumping" the kids out: slowly tipping the box on its side, then back to its "this side up" position. We mostly did it with only one child inside, but we also tried it with 2 and 3 kids all packed together as well.

Finally, we tipped the crate on its end and tried to climb on top. Only one of us was able to do it unassisted, so we retrieved a step ladder from the sand pit and took turns climbing up and then back down.

At one point I told the kids what the crate had originally been used for. None of them were impressed, but they sure loved the box it came in.

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"Miss Missa" said...

If the kids at my centre got their hands on this sort of crate, i can almost guarantee that one of the older ones would make reference to Henry's Freedom Box. They spent a lot of time in February contemplating how it would feel to be nailed into a crate and shipped far away, tipped the wrong way up, and have to "never pee" and "be so so quiet" the whole time.

AK said...

What a neat object to play with! I think you need to introduce them to the book, "Inside Outside Upside Down" because that's what your post made me think of :P

Scott said...

This comment made me smile. I can see the joy and fun that the box inspired. (And I think the box is always more fun that whatever is inside - at least for those creative kids!)