My son, Sohan, started coming home from school with odd knick-knacks, ranging from things as simple as popsicle sticks to much more elaborate items like parts from an air conditioner. This odd assortment of things canvassed our living room floors and hallways at home! Curious about their origin, I asked Sohan one day, “Are you allowed to bring these things home?” Innocently, Sohan responded, “Of course, Mom! You can bring anything home from the Do that Dump!” “Umm… the what?” Sohan quizzically glanced at me, as if I was being absurd, and responded, “The Do that Dump, mom!”
The Do That Dump is a box at school that contains materials from anywhere and everywhere; the school collected random items and “dumped” them into a box for students to explore and scavenge through. Something as seemingly simple as a box of stray items dressed by a fun-to-say name, “The Do That Dump,” provided an outlet for the inner workings of these students’ minds.
Soon enough, we built our own Do That Dump box at home. And shortly after, we watched it grow as items that we would have otherwise thrown away became the building blocks for my son’s and younger daughter’s imagination. At least once a day, Sohan would go to the box, pick out a bunch of things and build something. Some days we had ships and cars and others just modern art. It was fascinating to see his creativity in motion. Where I saw an antenna from a broken radio set, Sohan saw a road for a bridge. Where I saw a paper plate, Sohan saw a steering wheel for his box car.
One of our favorite creations and one of the few that has lingered around for longer than a week was the jet pack.
Sohan found a cardboard wine case in the dump and used a high chair belt to wrap it around his back. “Look I made a jet-pack, but it isn’t staying on tight,” he said. This turned into a family project – from figuring out ways to hold it together, make it sturdy and comfortable to adding decorative items such as bottle caps and broken pencil sharpeners and of course the fire “to make it work.”
Sohan saw past the labels and their respective definitions that I had routinely come to associate these objects with. Perhaps this is a lesson I was once familiar with, but in the process of becoming older and of course, wiser, I may have stopped seeing things for what they could be, focusing too much on what they were defined to be. As I attempt to see things the way my children do, it’s a lesson in imagining the possibilities.