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Homemade toys sale benefits endangered animals

Imaginations on a budget -- for a good cause

If you’ve ever wondered what it sounds like to be inside a toy-making workshop, a recent visit to Jenn Gregory’s art class at Ada Vista Elementary would have cleared that right up.

Brooklyn Miller’s egg carton, feather and pipe-cleaner flowers aren’t toys, but are for people who aren’t that great when it comes to growing real plants, she explained

It was a joyful noise of fourth-graders at the Spanish Immersion school as they painted, sewed and hot-glued toys of their own making.

The toys were to be sold to parents Dec. 20 as a fundraiser for the World Wildlife Fund, an international animal conservation organization the students selected.

Gregory said fourth-graders used design thinking to generate ideas, sketch and construct the toys they would make. As an added, cross-curricular twist, each toy was given a materials budget of 10 virtual dollars, and art supplies and equipment could be purchased or rented — for instance, scissors could be used for a one-time startup fee of 50 cents, and staples cost a penny for three.

Sylvia Fisher made sponge ‘squishys’

Doing the Math

Dominic Mulder and buddy Miles Holter made sports figurines from egg carton bubbles that could be moved along a pizza-box game board-turned-football-or-soccer field, swimming pool and basketball court.

“One would cost a dollar,” said Miles, “but there’s a coupon to get the first one for half price.”

Amaya Anthony and Aurelia Chabot planned to make a windfall with their fabric octopus-like dolls who are all named Shelly, as in sea shell.

Dominic Mulder holds a sports playing figure he made with partner Miles Holter

“We wanted an underwater name,” explained Aurelia.

The thrifty pair spent $4 to create 21 dolls and planned to sell them for $1 apiece, Amaya said.

Budgeting “is something I resisted at first as an artist, having to think that way,” Gregory said. “But now I love it, because it teaches them to be extra resourceful and to really respect their supplies.”


Magical creatures via design thinking

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio


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