Thursday, June 30, 2011


When Harry Potter first hit US bookshelves, I was in middle school. I felt I was far too old to concern myself with fantasy novels for kids. The summer before attending Tufts, though, I read the entire series. How could I study children's media without having read Harry Potter? It was the best decision I ever made!

The most well-loved creators are storytellers: playwrights, composers, lyricists, puppeteers, animators, and J.K. Rowling is, in my opinion, the most creative living human of our time. The universe she's created empowers children to defeat evil and read 500+ page novels. Books, movies, costumes, a new collegiate sport, a theme park, and yet we still want more? It's a licenser's dream!

I'd be a very silly and ignorant children's media lover and blogger if I did not mention the Pottermore launch. Have you heard of it? The Twitter feed seemed to give away the secret far too soon. J.K explains...

So, really, what is Pottermore? Most importantly (and wisely), it's the only retailer for Harry Potter eBooks. Secondly, it's a virtual experience where online participants can experience the world of the stories. Will I partake? Probably not, but I'm curious to see how well it does and how long it survives. Part of the launch includes bidding to participate in the test trials. Is it just me or does it not seem very exciting?

I'll definitely be tracking Pottermore's progress and am looking forward to a future blog or two about it. Until then, follow the owl?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


While prepping for this week's summer camp, I was reminded of how much I love bubbles. Did you see the picture? I am serious about making bubbles!

We created a batch of our own bubble solution on Friday and stored it over the weekend. The longer it sits, the better! On Monday morning, we poured some of our solution into the outdoor sensory table and brought out the gigantic bubble wands. I have NEVER seen such huge bubble wands. Childhood has definitely improved since 1991.

Here's the recipe we use:
2/3 cup dishwashing soap (Joy or Dawn seem to have magical powers)
1 gallon water

Glycerine kicks it up a notch. Some recipes recommend 2 to 3 tablespoons.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

iRead "Kid Made Modern"

Do you remember Todd Oldham? His fashion designs received acclaim in the '90s, leading him to host the MTV show House of Style (when MTV was still airing music videos). I'm not quite sure when I fell in love with him. Perhaps when he began to focus on interior design, particularly his delightful mid-century dorm products for Target! I still have my Todd Oldham for Target (year 2) two-tone mini-coffee table.

During my high school job at American Eagle in a New Jersey mall, I would ring Mr. Oldham up for his polo shirt purchases. I'm pretty sure he had a country home in the area, and I'm pretty sure he knew how much I loved him. I can't help but think about buying some of Oldham's new Charley Harper/Fishs Eddy pieces for my future apartment!

When I saw his latest book Kid Made Modern, I had an inkling it would be filled with fun projects to do with my cousins, my students, and by myself. This book definitely did not disappoint! The cover boasts "52 kid friendly projects inspired by mid-century modern design" and should be a required text for any school art teacher. In addition to the "52 projects," Oldham provides a thorough description of modern design, features several prominent modern designers with projects inspired by their work, and includes two pages of additional resources (more designers to look into, museums to visit, craft stores, and websites).

Before you read about any individual projects, there are four pages of craft supply kit items. I could easily spend two days going through these items with my cousins (ages 7 and 12), purchasing which ones we thought were most important, and developing our very own kits. This is a fantastic idea for rainy or "too hot" summer days. My favorite projects include (but are certainly not limited to): painted, wooden spoon friends (p. 26), plastic crate stool (p. 60), light cubes (p. 110), potato scarf printing (p. 130), paint chip and paper clip screen (p. 144), and a pegboard desk (170). I'm hoping to work on a few of these projects soon and will post on my progress.

The inspiration saver (p. 182) really caught my eye. As a creative child, I was constantly ripping out magazine pictures of clothes, furniture, or images that interested me. It wasn't until I was 18 that I started to collect and organize these images in an accessible way. The inspiration saver is simply a binder and page protectors that allow children (or adults) to collect and reflect on images that spark their imagination and artistry.

There are a few projects in the book that require sewing machines, and some using a sharp utility knife. The sewing projects in particular, though, seem much more difficult and may require more adult supervision and help. I recommend looking through the book before handing it over to a child. Highlight three or four projects that work well with your schedule and level of ability. Move on from there!

I recommend this book for children and modern design lovers ages 6 and up. There is something for everyone! You can find it on Amazon here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

iRead "Make Art Mistakes: A Creativity Sketchbook"

Before beginning grad school, I worked to manage and grow the Family Workshops program at The New Victory Theater. I was consistently inspired by the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art)'s family programs. They offer workshops, talks, and gallery guides for families, which are usually free or heaviliy subsidized.

I particularly enjoyed reading through their gallery guides. The team of arts educators who developed these, used very direct and accessible language. You can only imagine how thrilled I was to find their new art book for kids on a recent museum visit! The MoMA has just published Make Art Mistakes: A Creativity Sketchbook.

The book is filled with motivational quotes from well-known visual artists and provides a scaffolded guide of experimental art activities, including line-drawing, portraiture, and pattern-making. Included on almost every page of the book are those well-written directives that made me love the MoMA family guides. However, there are a few pages distributed throughout the book that provide blank space for a child's (or adult's) own doodles.

I completely fell in love with several sections of the book. So many pages provide graphing squares or dotes to help create shapes. Two pages at the beginning prompt young artists to draw lines that exhibit different emotions. This kind of activity seems fun, simple, and could support positive emotional development in very young children who are acquiring the vocabulary to identify the way they feel. I also loved the "create a color wheel" section, where artists fill in the shades between the primary colors. Lastly, the book provides three spaces "to record the color of the sky at three different times of the day." It might be nice to do some of these activities on large pieces of paper for homemade artwork to hang on the wall.

My only criticism is that the book would value from more descriptions. If I was a young artist, I might wonder, "What is a portrait?" "What is texture?" "How do I create rubbings?" Putting the descriptions right on the page of the directive might be nice. A glossary could easily be overlooked.

I could see this being a great activity book for a rainy summer day! Though I think kids as young as 3 would enjoy working with this book, I recommend it for ages 6 to 12. It requires a lot of reading and would provide a great deal of independent work for this age cohort.

Learn more about the MoMA family programs here. Buy the book from Amazon and check out MoMA's other books for kids here.

"Don't worry about mistakes. Making things out of mistakes, that's creativity." -Peter Max

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Curious George Learns About Business

The Curious George Bookshop is one of those special places that defines a neighborhood. It's unique corner storefront pull you in as soon as you exit the T station. Unfortunately, it's hard to define a neighborhood when that neighborhood is Harvard Square. Much to my dismay, I recently learned that the local shop will be closing this month. CBS Boston provided some great coverage that can be found here.

Curious George Store
In addition to the most full and varied collection of Curious George goodies I've ever seen, the store provided an amazing assortment of picture books upstairs and young adult titles downstairs. My favorite memory of the shop was when I had a full conversation with the salesperson about Moomins after spotting a rare collection of Moomin and Pippi Longstocking tea towels downstairs. Sincerely, this store was a treasure trove and will be missed!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Plan Toys

I was introduced to PlanToys last week while meeting with my head teacher. I was intrigued and decided to do some investigating. They seem very committed to being "green," safety, and child development. Below is the description I found on their website:
"PlanToys® is proving that it is possible to maintain superior quality and safety standards in addition to following a path of environmental and social responsibility. We are committed to maintaining the highest standard of ethics while creating innovative educational toys for every developmental stage of childhood. These toys inspire children's imagination as well as promoting their physical and intellectual development. PlanToys® are made from non-toxic, natural materials such as organic rubberwood. Our toys enable children to play, learn and become closer to nature."

My head teacher picked a few of these toys up for next year's classroom at this month's NAEYC professional development institute.

This one is my favorite! I can imagine using it during a meeting and singing a song about monkeys hanging on a tree, then putting it out as a choice!

What happens when you start stacking and matching shapes?

You make a clown!

I got to test one of the toys. The mallet can make a pretty loud noise, which might bother some children. A hard push with one's hand will get you the same result!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Portlandia East

Early Monday morning, Joe and I jumped on an Amtrak Downeaster to Portland, Maine. We ordered our tickets on and got a fantastic deal; we only had to pay for one round-trip ticket!

Joe is a huge fan of train travel, as I've mentioned in older posts. He had a full agenda for our visit, making sure we had a good balance of tourist must-sees and local stops. Included on this list was a trip to a shop called Treehouse Toys. The description stated that they sold unique toys from the United States and abroad. He thought it was something I would really enjoy, and he was certainly right!

Treehouse Toys is nestled in between boutique shops on Exchange Street in Portland's Old Town district. We scoped out the whole store, pointing out items that really got our attention. While looking at their stash of dramatic play clothes, I found these amazing French shadow puppet sets made by Moulin Roty.

While admiring a lovely grouping of different Madeline dolls, I was so happy to see Lola (of Charlie and Lola) tucked into one of the shelves as well. This was completely unique to me! I haven't seen any products from the British television show before. I was also very happy to see a whole bunch of my Fraggle Rock friends including Uncle Traveling Matt, Red, Gobo, and a Doozer!

Our trip was very quick but wonderful! In addition to the fun toys at Treehouse and the delicious food, I also fell in love with local design companies, Sea Bags and Angela Adams. I encourage you to get up or over to Portland soon!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summer Camp

When I was 11 years old, I went to peace and justice camp in West Caldwell, New Jersey. After 24 hours I was ready to go home, but the staff insisted that I stay. The solution? A hunger strike. Yes, it worked.

As a child I didn’t like sleeping away, and the word “camp” would send chills up my spine. Lately, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about how important it could be for children of this generation and the next to go to camp. Wherever I choose to raise children it will, most likely, be urban. I think that sending children to the woods for a few weeks could be fantastic and life changing.

Summer camp seems to be sewn deep into the blanket of our culture. I was so inspired by this article featured in Domino (1998) of Tom Filicia’s lake house. He called it “summer camp for adults” and even included owl knickknacks and bug-patterned sheets in the guest house.

Wet Hot American Summer is my favorite summer camp movie, with Camp Nowhere in a close second. I LOVED Design Sponge’s design interpretation of the film. You can check the whole post out here.

I would absolutely send my child off to camp with lots of stationary and stamps. There’s something so special about handwritten letters and receiving mail. This Yellow Owl Workshop set featured on Design Sponge looks like the perfect stationary for campers of all ages.

A few summers ago, I welcomed a bunch of friends out to the lake by my parents’ house in Jersey for Camp Chrissy. We swam, crafted, ate pizza, played games, and sang songs. It was fantastic! We even performed first aid on Heather after she cannon-balled into the lake and hit her foot. We talked about having camp again but just got too busy. Maybe summer 2011 is the second summer of Camp Chrissy!

What’s your favorite camp memory?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

SpiderMonster as Muse

Today is my one quiet, restful day before summer teaching starts. After a relaxing walk, it is time to put on my big girl sundress and get down to business.

My projects today include some preliminary data analysis for a study that I'm working on and the outline of a new show I'm creating. I'll be compiling all of my notes scribbled on corners of paper and coming up with a cohesive outline and plan. It's been a very slow and sluggish morning, and it's taken me a great deal of self-motivation to get started. I just saw this new promotional sneak peek that Sesame Workshop released for it's upcoming season.

SpiderMonster pokes fun at the drama that has surrounded the "new" musical adaptation of Spider-Man. It reminded me that writing for children should be funny, relevant, and accessible. Those are the words I'll be carrying with me today.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Thank you note from a 4 year old student...


Thank you for all you've taught me this year. You're very nice and very pretty. I like the toys you have as well.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Last Day of School

When I applied to Tufts, I thought I would take a chance and apply to be a graduate teaching assistant at the child development department's lab school. Though I had student taught at NYU, I never considered being a real classroom teacher. I accepted the position in 2009 and started to realize that this gig was teaching me more about child development than I was learning in the department. The Children's School is a Utopian environment with a beautiful natural playground, brilliant teachers, and involved families. The catch of accepting this job is that it's a strict two-year commitment.

Today is my final day during the school's regular year. Though I'll be staying on to work there through July, I can't help but feel as if this is a big goodbye.

We had an amazing year! I primarily taught a two-day/week preschool program. There the head teacher and I focused on creating social experiences for the children and building a community. In addition, I was able to develop a unit around Where the Wild Things Are. We read the book in English, re-read it in Spanish trying to decipher the key words of the story, created Wild Things masks out of paper plates and small found objects, played "Max Says" (like Simon Says but including "Wild Rumpus," which means everyone has to dance, and "Be Still," was meant everyone had to freeze), and we created a dramatic play space to resemble the Wild Things' forest. I learned how much more care preschoolers need in the classroom, but I also learned how FUN preschool can be. Painting, bike-riding, sand play, baby dolls, a reading corner, clay art, songs and games: can I go back to preschool?

I spent the rest of my week in the Extended Day program for children ages 3 to 6. We focused on family culture and the circus! The year-long circus curriculum was unreal. My head teacher, fellow GTA, and I are currently thinking about how we can use our year of circus to develop a publication, perhaps a curriculum guide. Our year culminated in a circus presented for the school under our very own big top. I think circus supports confidence and creativity among children, and that was certainly the case for our students. Here's a picture of Caryn, Jacquelyn, and I after our big circus debut!

I strongly encourage all academics to take a step out of their comfort zone and into a classroom. You might just learn something.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Around the World

This week marks the end of the official school-year at EP. Though I'm teaching through the summer, I can't help but feel that this is the end of the best job I've had. The school has become a home, and I've created a wonderful network of close friends within its community. I wanted to acknowledge my mentors this year with something special. Whatever it was, I wanted it to somehow compliment the year's anti-bias education focus.

Louise Derman-Sparks is a pioneer of the movement, and we have had the great fortune of working with her this year. We explored anti-bias topics in our own classrooms and among our teaching teams. The four curriculum goals of anti-bias education are:
*construction of a knowledgeable, confident self-identity
*comfortable, empathic interaction with people from diverse backgrounds
*critical thinking about bias
*ability to stand up for herself or himself, and for others, in the face of bias

When I found this on Etsy, I was certain that it would be the perfect gift. The painting and woodwork are really beautiful! Unfortunately, the cost is unrealistic for me. I decided to experiment with creating my own. I purchased a bag of 40 peg people, a few paper mache boxes, and lots of paint!

I used Crayola multicultural paints on the peg people. I wanted each gift to have an assortment of people with different shapes and skin tones. The Crayola paint is washable, however, which made it difficult to get a nice, solid color. If I were to do it again, I would use the Crayola colors to find acrylic matches.

Finally...acrylics! I painted the tops of the boxes blue. It was so much easier to get the color I wanted, and it dried a lot faster.

I painted different regions of the globe on each top using green acrylic. I also put some green, paper grass inside the box before adding the people to give it a fuller look.

Finally, I wrapped each box with a complimentary orange ribbon.

I am so proud of my crafting! The gifts were inexpensive, and I think they mean that much more because I took the time to make them myself. I used a black marker to write a personal note on the bottom of each box: "Made with love for ______ by Christina."

Monday, June 6, 2011

Stop Motion Animation!

I've been itching to experiment with stop motion animation for quite some time. I thought about taking a class but just couldn't find the time or have the credits at school. I thought, "How hard could it really be?"

A few weeks ago, my friend gave me a lovely music box tinker toy. When I saw it, I knew this would be the perfect subject for my first stop motion "film." I figured that it would have step-by-step instructions and require a lot of care; this is something that seemed really interesting to document in pictures. Rather than read the directions and even look in the box before I started documenting, I decided to go through the items for the first time while filming.

With plenty of time to spare and some lovely sunlight coming through my windows, I decided yesterday afternoon was THE time to start working. I set up the tripod and attached my Nikon point-and-shoot onto it.

Wow! This kind of work takes so much patience. I took one to three shots of each movement and decided which one I would use before moving on to the next movement (so there wasn't too much confusion during editing). I imported my photos into iMovie and changed the timing to .3 seconds for the first few shots and .2 for the rest. I recorded the actual music in GarageBand and laid the track over the video. I had to slow down the timing at the end of the film in order to get the full music track in.

Now that I'm a stop motion expert (*wink*), I can absolutely see how the light changes throughout the film and where my camera moved, therefore, creating uncomfortably jerky movements. It's completely amateur, and I LOVE it! My next stop motion will be IKEA furniture construction. GET. PSYCHED.

You can watch the video on Vimeo by clicking here. Enjoy...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Good Morning!

This week I experienced something nearly unrecognizable: free time. I had about 45 minutes before I had to arrive at school to teach preschool. Emails had been sent, jobs had been applied to, dishes had been washed, and my latest craft project was drying. It was an amazing feeling!

The past year has certainly been an adventure full of deadlines, rewrites, and curriculum planning. I'm currently in the process of what I've aptly called "The Great Job Search 2011." With a bit more time to write, I am happy to announce that I will be posting regularly on iGeneration and am very pleased with the redesign. Please read on if you're interested in what's been happening during iGeneration's comfy nap.

Big Top Fitness

Despite the lack of updates on the blog and Facebook page, Big Top Fitness is alive and well! My colleague Sabrina Connell and I collected data on all five episodes and gained a bit more insight into which episodes children preferred and what prompted them to get up on their feet and get active. I hosted two screenings of the series: one in Brooklyn, NY, for family and friends and another in Somerville, MA, for my students, their families, and my Massachusetts friends. Rachel Yonda made unbelievably beautiful invites for both events.

It was nice to catch friends and family up on what I've been doing at Tufts. I felt very fortunate to be surrounded by so much love and support! You know people love you when they wear a clown nose for you.

I was very lucky to get some press around the Massachusetts screening. The Somerville Patch included a nice article about my work and the event. You can read it here.

The Thesis
I was ecstatic to complete and defend my thesis on time. It was looking a little grim there for a bit. I'm very proud of the work and hope that I can modify parts of it for publication in the near future. Researching my own artistic project was very difficult. I also found flaws with my methodology and would love to go back and do the study differently. Unfortunately, IRB and Tufts' lab school restrictions made it extremely difficult to perform the ideal study. I learned a great deal about methodology during the research and writing processes. It would have been nice to perform the study in a more naturalistic setting and perhaps use the caregiver as an investigator in the project. I'm interested in comparing these possible methods with other children's media studies performed both in academia and in the industry.


I think my favorite part of graduation was when my dad pulled out a clown nose from his jacket pocket and encouraged me to wear it for the ceremony. We Zagarinos love to push buttons, especially when it comes to pomp and circumstance! More than anything, I was so touched that he had held onto the nose. I could tell how proud my parents were of the work I had accomplished these past two years. Friend and Big Top production assistant, Audrey Raboin, and I sported our noses as we left the ceremony. In addition to working on the series, Audrey and I also spent our first semester studying puppetry for television, taught by none other than the amazing Sabrina. Those workshops provided me with some of my favorite Tufts memories. Here's Audrey working with Naranja:

I think we're mostly caught up! I look forward to posting more regularly and reading your comments.