Young inventors voyage into the toy realm

Young inventors voyage into the toy realm
From left: Luke Kleinrath, Alexander Poroy, Daniel Gurholt and Adam Olander showcase their project during Ada Harris School’s second annual Toy Fair. The team created an action figure called “Legends of Jhiaxus.” Photo by Aaron Burgin

ENCINITAS — From the “Luvable Huggable” to the “Hot Dog Hammock” and all of the zombies, board games, plush animals and action figures in between, the 6th grade students at Ada Harris Elementary School want you to buy their toys.

To assist in selling his wiener-based hammock, Parker created a minute-long commercial that included the catch phrase, “It’s fun in a bun!” that generated laughs from parents and people who visited his exhibit.

Audrey Smith, Brooke Cardinale and Natalie Cutri created a flashy poster board complete with information about their “huggable” product, a large chair draped with a giant plush stuffed animal that wraps its arms around the person seated in the chair.

Ingenuity, craftsmanship, mathematics and entrepreneurial spirit were all on display last Friday afternoon at the school’s second-annual Toy Fair, which doubles as the end of a semester-long project for the school’s senior pupils.

The objective: each 6th grader, either by themselves or in a group, had three months to design a toy, develop a prototype and create the marketing materials to make the case that their toy would be a hot seller this holiday season, said Matthew Jewell, a 6th grade teacher at the Cardiff campus.

Angela Georgens, left, and Stella Singer present one of the fair’s few educational toys, a gardening toy that contains a variety of packaged seeds. Photo by Aaron Burgin

Angela Georgens, left, and Stella Singer present one of the fair’s few educational toys, a gardening toy that contains a variety of packaged seeds. Photo by Aaron Burgin

Additionally, students had to price their toy and explain, using charts and graphs with names such as box-whisker graphs and histograms, showing how they arrived at the price point.

Finally, they had to write a pitch letter to the company of their choice explaining why they believed their toy should be on the store’s shelves. Most of the kids wrote letters to Target, Wal-Mart, Toys ‘R Us and Geppetto’s.

While the finished project was important, Jewell said equally important was the process each student engaged in to reach the final stage, which represents a shift in educational philosophy that has been emphasized under the new Common Core standards, Jewell said.

“We really wanted to see the kid’s process from start to finish,” Jewell said. “As we are going through this philosophical shift, I am optimistic you are going to see more projects like these, which is not also helping the kids, it’s helping us as teachers become better learners.”

A special guest attending the event was Mark Rappaport, the Escondido Toymaker behind the “Marky Sparky” toy line who took notes as the kids pitched him their ideas.

Rappaport said he wasn’t going to name his favorites, but said all of the students accomplished an important goal.

Olivia Kleinrath stands next to one of the students’ projects — the “Hot Dog Hammock.” Photo by Aaron Burgin

Olivia Kleinrath stands next to one of the students’ projects — the “Hot Dog Hammock.” Photo by Aaron Burgin

“You could see the ones who took their time and some who mailed it in,” Rappaport said. “But the point is, can they make something from nothing, and please themself. If you can please yourself, who cares if you can please me.”

The finished product varied from the extravagant — such as Cole Lackey’s “Terra Sail,” a large paddle board with a detachable sail made of tarp, which Cole priced at $249.99 — to the simple, such as Archie Giammona’s “Speed Ball,” a baseball with colored markings to show the different grips for different pitches.

Pupils were tasked with making their toy concepts fit in one of the hot holiday toy trends, which this year, included custom-made and larger-than-life toys. Piper Smith, Teya Redding and Annie Marx’s “Under Water Adventure,” a 10-foot by 10-foot board game with a cardboard box-sized dice, certainly fit the trend.

Carlos Saucedo, Oscar Hernandez and Josue Munoz did a take on custom toys with their “Car Pros,” a remote control racecar that the owner can design with glow-in-the-dark stickers and other trimmings. The price? A cool $20 — batteries included.

“Everyone else makes you buy the batteries,” Carlos pointed out. “I think it’s pretty cool that you get them included.”

Stella Singer and Angela Georgens had one of the fair’s few educational toys, a gardening toy with a variety of packaged seeds. The difference, they said, is that each bag contained a variety of seed types, making the gardening experience a grab bag of fun.

The pupils said they learned a number of valuable lessons from this year’s fair.

“I learned how to be a hard worker and persevere through tough times,” said Elle Largent, who, along with her partner Grace Ibarra-Secard, built a prototype of a motorized car that was priced at $250.99. “It taught me how to deal with stress, too. It was a lot of work.”

Jewell thinks the stress paid off in the end.

“I think the enthusiasm that the kids had speaks for itself,” he said.

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