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Monday Morning Ready09.13.2019
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Toys as old as civilization. Neolithic kids are presumed to have played with sticks and clay balls. Ancient Egyptian children had a game resembling jacks. Children of China's Zhou Dynasty flew kites. Medieval European kids played war with miniature soldiers. But it wasn't until the 20th century that toys began to be mass marketed-and therefore, patented.... < read more >
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Grade 3-4

Which toy is your favorite "Toy Story" character? Why?

Grade 5-6

According to the article, Helen Malsed invented the Slinky Dog after her son wanted to add wheels to a Slinky. Think about the toys you've had. How could you adapt one of them to make something new?

Grade 7-8

The "Toy Story" movies feature characters based on many different classic toys. Think of a toy not featured in the movies that would make a great character. What is the character like? How would it fit into the story?

Grade 9-10

If you could invent a new toy, what would it be? Where did your idea come from?

LESSON PLAN
Investigate the History of Your Favorite Toy

PROCESS:

  1. Review the article and discuss how several classic toys came to be. Point out that the inventors of many toys were inspired by things they saw in their daily lives.
  2. Instruct students to think about all the toys they've ever had. Encourage them to pick their favorite.
  3. Have students conduct research to learn about that toy's history. Who invented it? What was the inventor's inspiration? How has the toy changed over time? Encourage students to brainstorm ideas about how the toy might continue to change in the future.
  4. Give each student a piece of plain white paper. Have students fold their papers into thirds. Instruct them to label the sections "Past," "Present" and "Future." Then have students create their own "History of Toys" brochure with details and drawings or pictures to teach others what they learned about their favorite toy.

ASSESSMENT:

Invite students to share their brochures with the class. After the final presentation, poll the class to find out which toy students think has the most interesting past. Poll the class again to see, based on presenters' predictions, which toy students think could have the most interesting future.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
Have students conduct research in small groups. Even though group members may not be investigating the same toy, they can help each other find and understand the information they discover. Encourage groups to brainstorm ideas about how each favorite toy might continue to change in the future. Then have each group member create a brochure about his or her favorite toy.
Grades 5-6:
Have students conduct research in small groups. Even though group members may not be investigating the same toy, they can help each other find and understand the information they discover. Then have each student brainstorm ideas about how their favorite toy might change in the future. Instruct each student to create a brochure with a drawing or picture of the toy and at least three bulleted pieces of information in each section.
Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into pairs. Have partners work together as they conduct research to learn about each student's favorite toy. Then have each student brainstorm ideas about how their favorite toy might change in the future. Instruct each student to create a brochure with a drawing or picture of the toy and at least five bulleted pieces of information in each section.
Grades 9-10:
Instruct each student to identify his or her favorite toy and conduct research to learn about its history. Encourage them to identify key changes the toy has undergone since it was first invented. Have students identify one trait they think would make the toy even better in the future. Then have students create a brochure with a drawing or picture of the toy and a detailed summary in each section that describes what the toy was like in the past, changes that resulted in the present product and how the new trait they identified would make the toy even better in the future.
SMITHSONIAN RESOURCES
How a Small Tweak Made Lego the Toy You Know Today
Once a company of only 10 employees, Lego is now one of the most recognized brands on the planet—valued at over 14 billion dollars. Watch this Smithsonian Channel video to learn why none of this could have been possible without Lego’s revolutionary approach to play and commerce.

Totally Cool Toys
In this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Center, students will imagine that they have just been hired as a designer at the Totally Cool Toy Company to design a very cool toy using a variety of materials in whatever way they think will create the most interesting toy.

The Father of the Video Game: The Ralph Baer Prototypes and Electronic Games
Read this article from the National Museum of American History to learn how an epiphany while waiting at a bus stop led to a mass market product that allowed people to interact with their television sets.

Make a Yo-Yo from Recycled Stuff
Thomas Edison said, “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” With these words in mind, use this lesson plan from the Smithsonian’s History Explorer and the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation as you challenge students to create their own yo-yo using items found in your recycling bin.

Jerome Lemelson: Toying with Invention
One of the most interesting things about Jerome Lemelson’s toy patents is the way in which they parallel interests he was pursuing in other fields. Read this article from the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation to learn why.

Cell Game
In this three-period unit from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, high school biology students will make learning about cells fun and exciting. They will use their knowledge of cells to design and build a game that tests the knowledge of other students.

Lincoln Logs Inventor John Lloyd Wright
Did you know that this popular toy was designed by none other than the son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright? Read this article from the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation to learn this toy’s amazing history.
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