This camp lets kids show off their imagination and battle skills. Cardboard required.

There's a camp in Minnesota that's taking kids on quite an adventure.

GIF via Julian McFaul/YouTube.


An adventure in cardboard, that is.

For the past few years, the Minneapolis-based camp Adventures in Cardboard has been opening up the hearts and minds of area youth through outdoor arts and play — and lots of it.

All images come from Amy Wurdock, used with permission.

Created by artist and teacher Julian McFaul, the camp is based around workshops that encourage kids to use nature and their imaginations to create their own fun spaces, both mentally and physically.

And they've got plenty of space to do it. With six locations scattered around the Twin Cities, you can find campers on fantastic wooded trails, high open country fields, and miles of lake or river shoreline. It looks like the ultimate adventure.

The camp comes with the mindset that when you give kids the freedom to be outdoors and be creative, it can compete with any smartphone app, video game, or television show.

I think that's right.

Julian told me that the idea for the camp came naturally from the culture of the Powderhorn Park neighborhood that his family, including his two kids, live in.

"People here just like to build stuff and play. ... We had a giant pirate ship on wheels one year that we ripped around the blocks of Powderhorn, and the kids would get off every once in awhile and storm someone's yard."

Um ... that's amazing and quite a way to get to know the neighbors. And it does pose the question: Why play video games for hours on end when you can be the star in your own real-life version?

I think it's safe to say the kids are enjoying themselves — and it's good for them, too.

"From the work of Richard Louv and others describing 'nature deficit disorder,' we know children are smarter, healthier, and happier when they have time for semi-structured play in natural places," Julian said.

And this year, the camp is trying to make sure ALL kids have the opportunity to experience the fun. Because you shouldn't have to be rich to kick butt in cardboard.

"I know the first thing a girl or boy usually does when they stand at the entrance of the Great Forest, no matter what their gender, ethnicity, or culture, is to grab a stick, do some sword-fighting moves and taunt the monsters inside to come and get her!"

If you feel like helping to make the camp available to more kids, feel free to check out the Indiegogo campaign they are running to raise scholarship funds for future campers.

Adventures in Cardboard is such a great outlet that adults want in too.

"We've had so many requests for an adult retreat organized around the same games and creative activities we do with kids that we're organizing one in the spring and one in the fall of 2016," Julian said.

I mean, I get it. Laughing and screaming with your friends while running around in handmade cardboard gear? It's like the ultimate dream.

I love that it's turned into a reality.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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One little girl took pictures of her school lunches. The Internet responded — and so did the school.

If you listened to traditional news media (and sometimes social media), you'd begin to think the Internet and technology are bad for kids. Or kids are bad for technology. Here's a fascinating alternative idea.

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Norton

This article originally appeared on 03.31.15

Kids can innovate, create, and imagine in ways that are fresh and inspiring — when we "allow" them to do so, anyway. Despite the tendency for parents to freak out because their kids are spending more and more time with technology in schools, and the tendency for schools themselves to set extremely restrictive limits on the usage of such technology, there's a solid argument for letting them be free to imagine and then make it happen.

It's not a stretch to say the kids in this video are on the cutting edge. Some of the results he talks about in the video at the bottom are quite impressive.

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