Destroy the Box Challenge: Classroom Challenges for Students to Empower and Engage

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Explore and create : Creation lab

Dr. Jody Britten  
Jed Dearybury  

Experience firsthand Mr. Dearybury's infamous Destroy the Box Challenge. Explore design thinking from a participant level and learn how to "get students thinking" through experiential learning opportunities. Participants in previous sessions have walked away knowing one thing: Creativity and leadership takes courage.

Audience: Curriculum/district specialists, Principals/head teachers, Teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Topic: Using the ISTE Standards
Grade level: PK-12
ISTE Standards: For Education Leaders:
Empowering Leader
  • Inspire a culture of innovation and collaboration that allows the time and space to explore and experiment with digital tools.
For Students:
Knowledge Constructor
  • Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
Computational Thinker
  • Students break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem-solving.
Additional detail: ISTE author presentation

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

To develop a foundation for the ISTE standards to become reality in all students, both teachers and their students must have the capacity to "see the difference." By introducing a hands on approach to creative processes and design thinking, the facilitators will provide an action oriented way to engage, empower, and collaborate between student teams as teacher teams. The constructor lab will take participants through a series of twelve destroy the box challenges.
Why? The thing we have found about teaching in relation to a box is that oftentimes we find ourselves longing to be back inside of it. It’s not that we don’t enjoy the lack of restrictions and as we step outside the box’s confinement, but like a siren’s call, it beckons us back. The inside of the box is easy, comfortable, familiar, and safe. Because of the box’s appeal, thinking outside of it oftentimes is an isolated event that happens on Friday afternoon once the weekly assessments are finished. It may occur on a special school-wide celebration day or as a holiday approaches. Sometimes it happens when an evaluator is watching or a district administrator plans a visit. Once these events pass, the box’s call grows louder and louder and woos us back to its ease, comfort, familiar, safe space. If we want to really take our teaching to the next level, and consistently “wow” the students with unique, hands-on, engaging learning experiences we can no longer merely think outside the box. If we want to consistently develop students’ creativity, the box cannot keep calling us back. If we want students who think independently and work collaboratively to make the future better, the box must cease to exist. We must destroy the box. Traditional instruction and learning often starts with a didactic questioning where only a few students even choose to share their responses. A teacher who wants to destroy the box has Play-doh on hand and asks every to sculpt their answer rather than hear from only a few. Tanner Christensen’s work focuses on creativity challenges that helped educators move their instructional and learning experience design outside of our traditional box; his work has also created a theoretical foundation for our work in helping everyone "destroy the box." But just like students, teachers too need opportunities to practice the art of "destroying the box." This lab will walk participants through twelve destroy the box challenges that Jed has used throughout the country to ignite and inspire educators to think about teaching and learning differently. These challenges range from taking an every day object to rethink and reframe use and design, all the way to recycling materials in repurposed ways. At the end of the season everyone will have a solid set of "destroy the box" challenges they can use with students or educators to get them moving, thinking, and talking.


1. Creating a foundation for learning with the ISTE Standards: Can we destroy the box? - 10 minutes
2. What does it mean to destroy the box? (interactive brain storm - 5 minutes)
3. What holds us back from destroying the box? (interactive brain story - 5 minutes)
4. Destroy the box challenges - 12 challenges, 5 minutes each
5. Debrief and onward to destroy resources to take home (5 minutes)

Supporting research

Ackerman, D. (2000). Deep play. New York: Vintage Publishing. Aspelin, J. (2012). How do relationships influence student achievement? International Studies of Sociology in Education, 22(1), 41–56. doi:10.1080/09620214.2012.680327 Barton, P. E. (2003). Parsing the achievement gap: Baselines for tracking progress. Princeton, NJ: Policy Information Report, Educational Testing Service.
Britten, J. (2018). Innovating as an educational leader, Metiri Group.
Britten, J. (2017). The X learner and the Next Level, Metiri Group.
Britten, J. (2017). Getting at the heart of the empowered learner. ISTE Blog.
Britten, J. (2016). 4 Myths of Empowered Learners in the Classroom, ISTE Blog.
Britten, J. (2017). Five research based components of learning environments to empower learners, Metiri Group.
Brown, B. (2011). The power of vulnerability. Retrieved from Brown, B. (2019). Daring classrooms. Retrieved from Brown, S. (2009). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. New York: Penguin Group.
Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J., & Yap, A. J. (2010). Power posing: Brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychological Science, 21(10), 1363–1368. doi:10.1177/0956797610383437
Dearybury , Jed. The Playful Classroom. New York: Wiley.
Frank, S. J. (1978). Just imagine how I feel: How to improve empathy through training in imagination. In J. Singer & K. Pope (Eds.), The power of human imagination: New methods in psychotherapy (pages of chapter). New York: Springer.
Hakkarainen, P., & Brdikyt, M. (2014). How play creates the zone of proximal development. In The routledge international handbook of young children's thinking and understanding (pp. 65–76). UK: Routledge.
McLeod, S. & Shareski, D. (2018). Different Schools for a Different World.
Geurin, G. (2017). Future Driven.
Socol, I, Ratcliff, C., Moran, P. (2018). Timeless Learning.

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Dr. Jody Britten, Team4Tech

Jody Britten is a thought leader in digital learning. Acting as an activist for purposeful, quality learning experiences for all children Jody has built dynamic teams to conquer big issues facing preK-12 education. She has supported national and international private, public, and K12 organizations. Her work has supported large scale change that has lead to better learning experiences for children. She began her career as a public school educator, and grounds her work in practical yet strategic efforts to transform systems of learning.

Jed Dearybury, The Playful Classroom

Jed Dearybury began his career in 2001. During his early childhood classroom tenure, he received numerous awards: Featured in GQ Magazine as Male Leader of the Year, met President Obama as recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, and was named a top 5 finalist for SC Teacher of the Year.Currently, he works in Higher Ed training the next generation of educators. He published his first book, The Playful Classroom: The Power of Play for All Ages, in June of 2020. Book two is due out July 2021.

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