(WXYZ) — They say every problem is a new puzzle to be solved, but what if you could solve the problem with a puzzle itself?
A toy created by a Detroit native to address lacking representation and shows us how it’s already transforming the lives of little learners.
It’s always the small pieces that make the big picture and for D.J. Cobb, at just four years old, that picture is defined by endless possibility.
Each of these jigsaws- created by Puzzle Huddle- shows a child of color conquering a different high-achieving career. In D.J.’s collection, there's everything from a news anchor to a space explorer.
“Does that make you think you want to be one when you grow up?” asked WXYZ’s Ameera David.
“When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut,” said DJ Cobb. “Because I want to be in outer space.”
What D.J. sees in the puzzle, she sees in herself. The four-year-old was often found re-enacting the images.
“Why are having puzzles like this so critical?” David asked D.J.’s mom Danni Jackson.
“Because to me representation matters,” Danni Jackson responded.
The absence in representation of diverse faces of children’s tools - both in and outside of the classroom-- has long been documented.
“While there have been some strides with bridging the gap and talking about where race, identity, and culture intersect, there’s still so much work to be done,” said MSU Professor Raven Jones Stanbrough.
Michigan State University Professor specializes in Educational Equity. Indigenous and people of color are still often marginalized in everything from books to toys-- which she says, directly correlates to representation within careers.
“They might not even have the understanding or wherewithal to know they can aspire to do something because they haven't been exposed to people who look like them in that field,” said Jones Stanbrough.
It’s through that lens that Puzzle Huddle was born.
“They didn’t exist- I couldn’t find diversity puzzles with days and weeks and months of searching,” said Matthew Goins.
Matthew Goins, Cass Tech grad, and son of a retired Detroit educator says it all started while trying to inspire his own daughters to learn.
When he couldn’t find what he wanted, he began cutting makeshift puzzles out of cardboard until unexpected demand pushed him to turn his craft hobby into a business-- that ultimately landed on Oprah's Favorite Things list in 2020.
“For a young black girl to have an opportunity to see in the place that she plays a black scientist a black doctor, a black pilot, that informs their imagination,” said Goins.
And for this little learner, it’s an imagination as tall as it is wide.
“Just to see the joy in her eyes and her face when she sees the characters,” said Jackson. “She gets so excited; it makes her believe.”
Believe that in every future she can dare to dream is a girl who looks just like her, and fits.