Toy Production Unit

Kids creating for the 3-D PrinterMy middle school Students have recently explored a variety of sculpture and clay techniques and materials, so now it is time to put those skills to the test. Based on a project from Apex Art that I pinned years ago (

For this project, I had three of our feeder 3rd and 4th grade Elementary classrooms draw us some toy designs. These teachers tied in some common core to have their students write persuasive letters to the “Toy Company” to convince them to make their design. We got the drawings back in October, but it took me a little longer than expected to get to this place in their skills.

Students selected a drawing and then an art medium. They could make their toy in ceramic or modeling clay, fiber, recycled materials, paper mâché or make a computer design for the 3-D printer. As in all of my Modified Choice theme projects, there was a pretty even selection of mediums. Most chose based on the medium in which they were most skilled or comfortable. Since I had not explicitly taught anything about fiber yet, I asked students to choose that medium only if they had some experience with sewing.

Sewing by hand, using a pattern

Sewing by hand, using a pattern

Since I have not done this project before, I am still unsure on the timing. So far the kids that picked modeling clay and computer are almost done with their toy in 2 work periods. But others will need a lot more time. We will have a lesson about packaging on Tuesday so that those done with the toy, can begin that part of the project.

The kids are pretty excited about the project, although a little disappointed that the toys will go back to the original designers. I have offered them the chance to make a second copy of the toy for themselves, if they want. We will see how many chose that or are ready to move on to something else.

I will share more details as we progress. Also, I will be presenting this project at the 2015 NAEA conference.

2 comments on “Toy Production Unit

  1. I love the idea of students working as designers for younger kids ideas. Brilliant!
    I’m new to the choice based philosophy and will follow your blog for ideas and inspiration. Maybe you could answer this question for me. Do you have a system in place for passing out and monitoring sharp tools in your classroom? I work with 6th -12th graders at an alternative school where I have to keep a close eye on such items so I’m a little worried about putting them in the centers directly. Any feedback will be greatly appreciated.

    • I have ONE exacto-blade that I keep at my desk and hand out to approved students only. same with a couple of other pottery and bookbinding sharp tools. this is one of the pluses of doing choice. No need to monitor a set of 20 or 30 sharp tools that everyone needs to do the same project.