It’s not just another day in school for the third-grade class of gifted students at Desert Willow Elementary in the Vail Unified School District.
Or maybe it is when your teacher is Liz Bradshaw, the 1991 Arizona Teacher of the Year.
On Monday, the students were out of their regular school rooms and into Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s Toys, a classroom unto itself in midtown, with its colorful trees and fairy princess dresses hanging from the ceiling, and bugs and gems and play areas all enticing children to use their imaginations.
The dozen or so students did not go only to play, although they certainly incorporated a lot of that into their “studies.”
Their semester-long project, which incorporates the Arizona state standards through writing, hands-on creating and even making blueprints, is to create a toy that kids will want to play with.
At the toy shop, where you won’t find traditional games such as Monopoly, the children learn about cooperative play where no one loses, everyone works together and they all have fun, said Kyle Lehew, one of three employees dressed in costumes who took the students around the store, 4811 E. Grant Road.
Each child was told to search the shop for a fun toy and then join the group to brainstorm with employees about what makes it successful.
The annual trip to Tiggy’s – Bradshaw has been bringing her students to the store for nearly a decade – isn’t the start of the students’ project.
They already have come up with ideas for the toys they want to make and are working on blueprints for them at school.
Eventually they will build the toys, create magazine-style ads for them and write directions on how to play with their creations.
Classmates will try to play with the toys based on the directions, which will show the young toy inventors how clearly they have communicated, Bradshaw said.
At the end of the project, Tiggy workers will visit the class at 9400 E. Esmond Loop and critique the toys, said Tiggy’s general manager David Correa.
Toys in the works in the minds of the third-graders run the gamut.
Logan Tomczyk, 9, is creating a math card game that includes several math systems such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and fractions.
“I like toys that help people learn,” he said. “I think kids who like math will have fun with the game.” Logan chose a microscope when he was looking for an interesting toy in the shop.
Micaela Larson, also 9, chose a bouncing blue horse you can sit on.
“You can bounce and play on it or relax and just sink into it,” she said. For Micaela, who likes games of imagination, it’s a great toy, she said.
Micaela’s toy project is a zip line, a cord that she’ll attach to a harness and small chair and fill with toy animals.
“Kids will want to play with it,” she said, “because it will be adventurous.”