Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Blocks for Learning!

Some schools are rediscovering block play.  This story from the NY Times give some details about how a school in Manhattan is using blocks in their curriculum.  When I was in 5th and 6th grade, I was part of a grand educational experiment - all grades were in pods surrounding the kindergarten area, no walls.  In the center of the pod was a play area filled with Unit Blocks.  As 6th graders we loved spending part of our day building elaborate structures.  This was in a public school.  They never tested us on that subject!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Games for Makers

Continuing with the theme of building skills for kids through play, I have a trio of family games to recommend. These games fall under this rubric:
17. Storytelling. We survive socially by telling each other stories. Encourage children to tell stories and release their imagination through whatever toy they have in their hands.
The first two are Rory's Story Cubes and Tell Tale from Blue Orange. Give the story elements and let your imagination run. Rory's Story Cubes are wildly popular, with many mentions around the internet. Tell Tale is new, but already a Best Toys for Kids award winner. Our staff favorite is Telestrations. This game is pictionary meets telephone in a family game that is both a riot to play and an insight in to how best to communicate with others. All these games build skills in the most entertaining way.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Toys for Makers P2:Joining Things

Joining Things. Gluing, nailing, soldering, welding, tying, lacing, riveting, taping, stitching, screwing. Most of these are cheap to learn — give them an old log, a hammer, and a bag of nails, and let them bang nails until that log looks like a rusty hedgehog. Nearly any craft project or model kit. One of the areas we have endless choices: Number one for Makers - the Make-Do kits. These kits make projects out of recycled materials - imagination and joining all in one! We have a section on our web site just for Building/Joining skills This is one of my favorite categories, and it's a category that is always evolving, so call us for our latest ideas!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Toys for Makers Part I

Yesterday I posted about the Curriculum of Toys. This list is a great starting place, and a reinforces what we do with our toys at The Golden Apple - we want toys that help kids grow! Not what used to be sneered at as "educational toys", but toys like the Trebuchet Kit from Mindware. From the Curriculum:
Forces. Gravity, levers (moments), projectile motion, friction, pulleys, mechanical advantage, gearing and gearboxes, torque. Mobiles, trebuchets, magnets, juggling, throwing and ball sports, board sports, sailing, seesaws, slides, Lego, and bicycles!
We've identified these toys as specific to learning about force: Mindware Trebuchet Mindware Catapult Zcurve Bow Magnet Science I'll update with more toys as we develop the list. Keep Making!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Toys for Little Makers

Saul Griffith has published a list of toys that help kids build important life skills - not the usual educational toy subjects, but skills everyone needs. I happen to agree with this list, nothing depresses me more than shoppers who ask for an "educational toy - something that teaches the ABCs!" I much prefer showing people toys that teach the skills outlined on this list.   I'm in the process of adding toys from our store to the categories Mr Griffith has outlined. Watch for them here, and posted in the store.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Our Holiday Toy Catalog is out! This is our big event for the year as far as marketing ourselves goes, and we want it to be really big. This year we have a contest: Our Holiday Catalogs have arrived at the store - which means yours should arrive soon too! With pages full of toys kids will love - there's somethng for every child. We're having a photo contest for our Facebook users - When your catalog arrives, let your kids pick their favorite toy - take a picture of them holding up the picture and post it to YOUR Facebook page, then tag The Golden Apple -the 1st 10 tags will win a $10 gift card, and one lucky kid will win their toy! Everyone who posts and tags is eligible for a $25 gift card drawing. Catalog arrives this week, and the contest ends 11/05!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

President Obama: "Our Kids Only Get One Shot at a Decent Education" | The White House

RIP No Child Left Behind. It does take an awful long time to figure out something is a failure. I wish something wonderful was rising from the ashes, but do more with less is all I see.
President Obama: "Our Kids Only Get One Shot at a Decent Education" | The White House

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Best Toys for Kids 2011

The Specialty Toy Retailers Association has released this year's Best Toys for Kids list. We are happy to promote this list, not only because we voted for it, but also because we love the toys that made it! You can see the toys on our website right now. I'll be featuring this list in our emails and postings for the next few months - with more about the selection process and how a toy makes the list. In the meantime, stop by the store and ask us, we love to talk about these toys!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Day of the Dead Event

I've always loved the Mexican Celebration of Day of the Dead - ever since I visited Oaxaca many years ago during the celebration on Nov.2. We have been helping the kids make sugar skulls, collecting stories and any other classroom resources we could find to help teachers bring this event in to their classrooms. Of course we run in to a few folks who say "ooh isn't that Satanic?" which I don't understand - it's about honoring and remembering those who have passed away - so much different than our celebration of Corn Syrup and Cheesy costumes that doesn't really celebrate anything.
This year we have decorations - which is good because it's a step towards greater awareness. If companies are starting to put out products, we might actually have a chance of making this a part of the Halloween celebration everywhere.
Our event is being held on Saturday Oct 8th this year - we do it early so teachers can take the ideas back to school with them. Join us if you are in the area 1 pm - 3 pm!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Our Rep Day is August 10th

August 10th is Rep Day and it's huge! You can talk to reps from our biggest companies, save on items that you need to start the school year, meet up with friends and have fun! The first 150 teachers through the door get goodie bags filled with product we've collected all year. Talk to friends, meet other teachers, get pumped up for the school year!

The event starts at 10 am!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Science Education Goes to Maker Fair

Newshour speculates - too bad the tickets are so expensive. I would love to see Maker Fair sponsor some scholarships so every kid has a chance to become an engineer.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tossing Text Books

SF Tosses Workbooks

Big publishing shows its face - why would teachers toss perfectly good teaching resources? Because the administration won't let them use old, when new can be bought for top dollar from out of state publishers. And don't think these books are priced like workbooks at our store - you're looking at $30 books in this bin!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

ASTRA Marketplace 2011

I'm just home from ASTRA marketplace. This is where specialty toy store owners and specialty toy manufacturers gather to plot and plan what kids will play with in the coming year! I had a great time, and I'll be posting more about what I learned and found. What I'm thinking about though is play. How can I make play more important - I make my living by retailing play, and I want it to have enormous value, because if it's valuable, people will want it.
This TED video is from TED Bulgaria, but it's very easy to just switch "America" for "Bulgaria". Play makes your brain bigger! How is that for an endorsement!

Steve Keil: A Manifesto for Play

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Science and Uncertainty

From an article on BoingBoing.net
"This is scientific uncertainty--where the things we know and the things we don't know collide, and we are left to figure out how to use what we have to make decisions anyway. If we want people to understand science, we can't just give them facts to memorize. Scientific literacy isn't about being able to win a game of quiz bowl. It's about understanding how science works, and how science can be used to guide human decision-making. It's about knowing that we don't have all the answers. But it's also about knowing that "we don't have all the answers" isn't the same thing as "we don't know anything." If we pump people full of facts, but don't teach them about uncertainty, then we can't be surprised when they dismiss anything that isn't 100% certain"

Just a note that uncertainty doesn't score well on standardized tests.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Point to Happy

We are very excited to receive a new title "Point to Happy" from Workman. Here's a discussion with the authors:

It's a book designed for kids on the autism spectrum - we need more books like this!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dave Eggers on Teacher Layoffs

The lives of public school teachers have never been more surreal. While they're being pilloried in film and in the press - for their unions being too strong, among other things - last week, 2,800 teachers in the Bay Area were told they might not have jobs in the fall. How's that for job security?

Read the rest

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Test Prep Season

Yes, it's that happiest, most educational season of the year! I would rather see parents working on skills, and we spend too much time saying so at the store, but that doesn't stop the wave of parents buying books to improve scores. This year, we cut the number of titles down to 1. That's right - we chose one series: Prepare and Practice from Teacher Created Resources. We've reviewed many titles - Spectrum, Carney, Kaplan, but all those publishers have failed to keep their books current. The Prepare and Practice series is new, and best of all, it is straightforward, with an emphasis on test-taking skills. These books strike a good balance, and students will finish the book ready to do their best!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What are Libraries Good For?

Philip Pullman defends an alien concept - good things that don't make a profit!

“The greedy ghost understands profit all right. But that’s all he understands... He doesn’t understand libraries at all. That branch – how much money did it make last year? Why aren’t you charging higher fines? Why don’t you charge for library cards?”

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Value of Play

From the NY Times:
SARAH WILSON was speaking proudly the other day when she declared: “My house is a little messy.”Ms. Wilson lives in Stroudsburg, Pa., a small town in the Poconos. Many days, her home is strewn with dress-up clothes, art supplies and other artifacts from playtime with her two small children, Benjamin, 6, and Laura, 3. “I let them get it messy because that’s what it’s here for,” she said.

Ms. Wilson has embraced a growing movement to restore the sometimes-untidy business of play to the lives of children. Her interest was piqued when she toured her local elementary school last year, a few months before Benjamin was to enroll in kindergarten. She still remembered her own kindergarten classroom from 1985: it had a sandbox, blocks and toys. But this one had a wall of computers and little desks.

“There’s no imaginative play anymore, no pretend,” Ms. Wilson said with a sigh.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

From BoingBoing

This won't be offered at the Golden Apple any time soon - but I agree with his point that doing things the old-fashioned way is often a much more valuable process.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy 2011!

Today's my first day back at the store for this year. Last week, we started moving things around again - with the holidays behind us we can really set things up the way we planned. Our classroom is also a big item this week. We had to put our plan on hold - too busy and we needed the room for extra stock during December. Now it's full speed ahead - we'll be clearing the last storage items out, setting up tables and chairs and putting together a schedule for parents, teachers and kids. Watch for a Game Night coming towards the end of the month, Test Prep and GATE prep classes, Art, Preschool Readiness and some great active learning events! The new year is looking good!