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Curriculum Source:

Outcome ST1-16P:

BOS: Students describe a range of manufactured products in the local environment and how their different purposes influence their design.

BOS: Content:

1. There is a range of manufactured products in the local environment.

  1. STUDENTS: explore a variety of products in the local environment, eg food products and industrial products
  2. SUSTAINABILITY + INFORMATION & COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES (ICT): discuss the purpose and usefulness of familiar applications of science and technology products used in everyday life, eg rechargeable batteries, recycled materials and single-use disposable food containers.
  3. ATSI HISTORY & CULTURE describe a variety of ways in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have used or continue to use natural materials to make products that meet their needs, eg the use of natural fibres to make woven products.

2. The different purposes of products influence their design.

  1. STUDENTS: identify the purpose of some familiar products and explore the features of their designs that make the products work, eg the broad brim on a sun hat or a plastic raincoat
  2. SUSTAINABILITY: explore ways that products may be designed and made to conserve resources, eg recyclable materials and reusable containers SE
  3. CRITICAL & CREATIVE THINKING: discuss the strengths and limitations of a specific product, considering the materials from which it is made

History of Toys Banner

Example: Converting a 'history of toys' essay into a 'STE[A]M' task?

Example Introduction:

No culture is entirely without toys; where mass-produced and mass-marketed toys are absent, children transform everyday objects into games, puzzles, and imagined friends and enemies.

Toys can be objects of solitary attention and entertainment or, far more often, centrepieces of social interaction.

Even animals play with toys.


Students will access a template document that will provide some examples (6) of old and new toys. The students must provide simple answers to classify the characteristics of each toy. The classifications are simple, such as Natural-v-Synthetic and Yes-v-No.

Example Toy Classification Template:

Name of toy Type of toy Play alone with friends Made of It moves Sustainable
Slinky Machine Yes No Synthetic Yes Yes
Barbie doll Doll Yes Yes Synthetic Yes No
Furby Doll Yes Yes Synthetic Yes No
Wooden horse Animal Yes No Natural
And so on…

Based on the (very limited) data, students should be able to see that old toys are (at face value) made of materials that are more sustainable compared with new toys. It should be pointed out that conclusions based on such limited data does NOT make them reliable or 'correct'

During the above excercise, students should build a word wall (using post-it notes or similar).

Students should be encouraged to ask questions and discuss problems with their peers.

For more examples, see the contents of the tables in the 'Toy Story Survey' section below.

My STEM toy project will identify. explore and discuss...

  1. Some of the most popular toys sold over the last one hundred years
  2. Some traditional ATSI games. I will investigate and record how the toys move.
  3. Some old toys compared with my own favourite toy.
  4. My own favourite toy and whether I would swap it for a new or different toy.

I will collect and format data by:

  1. Creating a Google survey which includes at least one 'open' and one 'closed' question.
  2. Collecting, entering, filtering, sorting data using 'Google Sheets'.
  3. Summing (adding) the results by clicking in a 'Google Sheets' cell.

I will create a short audio recording (or optional video) by interviewing:

  1. My parents, grandparents or a friend talking about their favourite toy.

Example Visual Design Element (Image/Video):

Popular toys 1923 to 2011

Image 1. Example images of popular toys from the last 100 years - Source: TIME Magazine and Time's 100 Years of Toys

Example Procedure:

  1. I made a guess about whether modern toys are any different from old toys (my hypothesis),
  2. Explored popular modern toys compared with popular old toys. Traditional vs Modern Toys
  3. Investigated 'sustainability' and compare materials used to make old and new toys. Sustainability of Toys
  4. Identified and compared toys that move versus non moving toys.
  5. Compared my favourite modern toy with a similar old/traditional toy and wrote about that. Compare and Contrast Toys
  6. Described toys and games that were/are popular in different cultures.
  7. Used evidence (data) that I had collected to help see if my guess (hypothesis) was correct.
  8. Included visual design/artistic elements to improve reader understanding and interest eg. multimedia
  9. *Designed a toy, including drawings of prototype and modifications, to complete an engineering challenge.

Example Data Collection:

  1. I visited local toy stores, museums and/or sites on the Internet like All-TIME 100 Greatest Toys
  2. I found out what the most popular toy(s) were in the last 100 years compared with 2015
  3. I investigated traditional ATSI games and toys at the Australian National Library web site.
  4. I created a survey (data organised in rows + columns on a sheet of paper or an on-line survey using Google sheets or similar).
  5. I asked people to fill in my 'Favourite Toy' survey and make sure that they enter their age, what materials the toy was made from and where/when they purchased or were given their toy.
  6. I used a maths formula that I found on the Internet to compare toy values.

Toy Story Survey

Wherever it make sense, include both open and closed questions in surveys to probele for understanding and to provide opportunities for deeper discussion/investigation: See example on-line Toy Story Survey

Example Background Research/References:

Top Toys Australia 2015

Year(s) Examples of most popular toys by decade(s): Source
1900's Crayola crayons, Monopoly, Scrabble, Troll dolls, … *1
1920's Radio Flyer cart, pop-up books, chemistry sets *2
1930's Mickey Mouse, Buck Rogers, sock puppets, finger paint *3
1940's Slinkys, Magic 8 Balls, Bubble blowing packages *2
1950's Barbie dolls, Frisbees *2
1960's Etch A Sketch, Lite-Brite, Easy-Bake Oven *2
1970's The Rubik's Cube, Baby Alive and NERF Balls! *2
1980's My Little Pony, Cabbage Patch dolls and Transformers *2
1990's Beanie Babies, Buzz Lightyear and Furby *2
2000's Bratz dolls, Zhu Zhu pets and mind game *3
2010's Nintendo WII, XBox360, Razor Scooter, iPod, Bratz Doll *4
2015 Goldie Blox, Google Viewmaster, VTech webcam, Star Wars *5

Example Data/Survey Results - Part 1/2 (Conventional Toy Sales)

Toy Bought Materials Features Enviro. FriendlyMovement
Chatter Telephone 1962 wood + metaltelephone on wheels with noisemaking buttons and dials.nopush+pull
Rubik's Cube 1975 plasticcomplex, colourful block manipulation puzzle.noother
Cabbage Patch Doll 1983 vinyl + clothhuggable, uniqueness, adoptability.noother
Transformers 1984 plasticrobots transform into vehicles & weapons.noother
TM Ninja Turtles 1990 plasticmutant reptilian super-heroes.noother
Super Soaker 1993 plastictechnically sophisticated, long range water gunnoother
Buzz Lightyear1996 plasticaction figure based on cartoon movie characternoother
Furby 1998 plastic + electronicfurry animatronic creature that could learn + speak soundsnoother
Zhu Zhu 1998 plastic + electronicrobotic hamster makes 'cooing' sounds & 'explores' interactivelynoother

Table 1. Some of the most popular toys in the last 100 years - Source Top-selling Toys from 1923-2000

Example Data - Part 2/2 (Traditional ATSI Games & Toys)

Toy or Game name Materials Features Enviro. Friendly
Bubberah wood A game about come-back boomerang throwing. The boomerang which returns closest winsyes
Kolap wood An object throwing game using beans of the Kolap tree. Common on Mer Island in the Torres Strait late last century.yes
Whagoo fur A popular hide and seek game was also known to Aboriginal people.yes
Keentan fur game of catch ball played by both genders. The game was also called the ‘kangaroo-play’ because the players jumping up to catch the ball resembled the movements of a kangaroo.yes

Table 2. Some of the most popular traditional ATSI games/toys Source: Australian National Library archives

Video 1. How to play Keentan

Toy Value Calculators (Original plus simpler WPS versions):

Simple WPS Toy Value Calculator:

Students complete the on-line form and select value from a scale for each question.

Toy value calculator


See the original (complex) Toy Value Calculator - see image at right:

  • How to view 'Toy Value Calculator' data/graphs in 'Google Sheets':
  1. Open the 'Toy Value Calculator' results spreadsheet in Google Sheets.
  2. Select the cells that hold the values that you want to calculate.
  3. In browser, bottom right corner, the “Sum” button will show the total.
  4. Click “Sum” to show: Average, Minimum, Maximum, Count values.

To calculate the 'value' of a toy, simply total up the values for that form entry.

The relative 'values' of two or more toys may be compared by, for example, dividing the total value scribed to a toy by the cost of that toy. The result will provide a way to compare how much 'value' a toy provides for each dollar spent.

What other questions (hypotheses) could be answered using the data. For example, could you use the 'Toy Value Calculator' to help compare the dollar cost versus the environmental cost of a toy?

My results for Table 1 (above) show that 55% (five of the nine toys) are like 'dolls' and children are encouraged to think of them as having unique personalities and powers.

Only 10% of the toys surveyed involved a 'push' or 'pull' action. Although all of the toys involved movement/articulation of some parts, manual push' or 'pull' was not not required and not advertised as a feature.

My results for Table 2 (above) includes example items listed at the Creative Spirits web site (National Library of Australia) many traditional ATSI games taught hunting and similar, physical life skills, while others were simply entertaining. There was no mention of toy dolls or animal characters having special personalities, powers or comfort values. Source: Australian National Library

Historically, most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children play to learn (for example Arrernte children learn to play string games so they can remember stories they have been told) - Source: Scootle

* All data from Table 1 may be independently evaluated using the Toy & Play Value Calculator

Some cultural differences between the toys and games listed in tables 1 and 2 are discussed below.

Example Discussion:

Data in Table 1: Most of the toys fall into three main types:

  1. Dolls
  2. Puzzles
  3. Machines

My favourite modern toy was Clever Keet because although I wanted a budgie, my mother said that Clever Keet is just like a real bird only smarter and cleaner. My favourite old toy is the WETA Ray-gun and AEther Oscillator.

I think old toys are a lot more fun than modern toys.

Previous studies have shown that up to 70% of young children develop strong attachments to objects such as toys or blankets. The phenomenon tends to be confined to the western world, where children usually sleep apart from their parents at an early age.

Studies have also found that children preferred their own 'comfort blankets' or
'raggedy bear' over new, otherwise identical, replacements and that children invest
intangible qualities in their own objects that cannot be replicated in others.

The study contrasted the preferences of children to that of art enthusiasts, who prefer an original to a copy that is identical in every way.

Data in Table 2: In western culture, it is common for toys to be handed down through the generations. Some other cultures have belief systems centred more on all things having a life force and, for that reason may have a different attitude towards personalised toys.

For example:

Some cultures find it difficult to live in other people's homes because they feel
there is something intangible left of the previous people in them.

Such differences may help explain why ATSI culture has been more about participation in community games rather than ownership of personalised toys. References: The Guardian and Aboriginal Games & Activities

Example Conclusions:

To some educators, play seems like a distraction from the more important task of preparing workers for the knowledge economy, whereas research suggests that toys are not only fun but also crucial for the development of such high-level human skills as decision-making, contextualizing, and creativity.

There is some evidence that cultural beliefs may make a difference to the type of toys and games that children find attractive.

This may serve to remind us that that:

  • Not all play has a function:
  • Not all toys are educational
  • Not all interactions with toys and games are about producing productive members of society.

Reference: Psychological Science

Example Summary:

The data from this study suggests that most modern toys are environmentally unfriendly and focus on creating a special, personalised relationship between the toys and their owners.

By contrast, traditional/ATSI games seemed to focus more on teaching environmentally neutral life skills and on community entertainment.

The study included a method to calculate the value of toys and games mathematically, but many researchers believe that its quite OK if toys have no value other than the fun they create! The above findings support the hypothesis that there may be significant differences between modern and traditional toys/games - both in their cultural and environmental consequences.

More research (and funding) is required to investigate how to have more fun!

PD STEAM Activity - Sailing Task:

Task to be presented and completed in the form of 'Marshmallow challenge'.

Resource list:

  1. Post-it notes for word-wall
  2. White-board and white-board marker(s)
  3. Room fan(s) with at least three cardboard boxes per fan to create wind tunnel
  4. Optional - Walking machine (conveyor belt) from a health centre
  5. Paddle-pop sticks with PD attendee names
  6. Maker Bits & pieces:
    • Cutters, scissors, hot-melt glue, PVA glue, masking/cello tape
    • A4 paper, plastic bags, straws, wooden skewers
    • Core-flute or similar stiff cardboard or craft card/foam
    • CD's, milk bottle tops, beads
    • Clean, empty PET bottles, take-away food containers
    • Old toy cars, boats or similar clean trash that can be re-purposed

Read more about sailing...

Extra Items For Teachers:

Example Rubric (for teachers)

How To Teach Science:

Research around the world indicates that at the end of their schooling, large numbers of students still hold many ideas, or conceptions, which are not in accord with the way that scientists understand our world. Here are some guidelines for teaching science at school.

The Scientific Method:

Scientific Method - A Flow Chart

The scientific method is one particular way to ask and answer scientific questions by making observations and doing experiments. Some people argue that there is no such thing as 'The Scientific Method' - make up your own mind:

The steps of the scientific method are to:

  • Ask a Question
  • Do Background Research
  • Construct a Hypothesis
  • Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
  • Record your Observations in a Table of Results
  • Analyse the Data and Draw a Conclusion
  • Communicate Your Results

No matter what your method is, it is important for your experiment to be a fair test:

A fair test means that you should set up your experiment so that everything is fair.

  • You should only change one thing at a time, and note down the results.
  • If you change more than one thing at a time, you can not tell which thing (variable) it was that affected the results.


  1. Writing lesson - Would you swap your toy for an identical new toy, or any other toy?
  2. Sailing - Do we need some task sheets
  3. Focus of differentiation of materials - old versus new kids too young to know - need to supply examples and link to Time Magazine 'Best Toys Last 100 Years'



teaching/stem/st1-2016/home.txt · Last modified: 09/05/2018/ 16:55 by