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GreatSchools 2011 Golden Apple Award: Best Learning Toys and Best in STEM Toys

2nd Annual Golden Apple Award adds STEM category for toys, products and gadgets that stimulate scientific thinking while having fun

San Francisco, CA — October 17, 2011 — Just in time for the holidays, GreatSchools is releasing its picks for the 2011 Golden Apple Awards for this year’s best learning toys.  Our parent-trusted, education-minded website offers parents an unbiased source for great new toys that inspire learning — and fun.  See here for a video preview.

Released today on GreatSchools.org, the list helps busy parents find carefully vetted educational toys without having to wade through conventional holiday toy reviews wondering which products have real brain-boosting value. Best known for its website for parenting and school information, GreatSchools.org, the national education nonprofit is visited by close to 40M people a year.

“Great new learning toys are surprisingly difficult to find, but they are out there,” states Carol Lloyd, Executive Editor at GreatSchools. "Now that parents need to contribute to their children's education in more ways than ever, it's crucial for every parent to use those precious dollars to help their kids learn even out of school."

The Golden Apple Award is given to companies’ toys and products made within the last year for specific age categories. In the review process, GreatSchools found toys falling into one of three categories: "Parents not included” toys that teach something meaningful but they require substantial parental involvement; “Teachnology” high-tech toys which attempt to teach subject matter; and lastly, “Raw Material” toys that engage children to make, do and explore in an open ended way.

The new STEM category was added this year to highlight the amazing new toys that can help children learn science, technology, engineering and math.  According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), less than one-third of American fourth graders and eighth graders performed at or above a proficient level in mathematics in 2010 and only 15 percent of all U.S. undergraduates receive their degrees in natural science or engineering. In contrast, the figure is 50 percent in China and it’s 67 percent in Singapore. GreatSchools wants to help parents prepare kids for our high tech future – and to alert parents that we must not ignore STEM education in the early years.

“GreatSchools’ thoughtful assessment of toys today make it so meaningful to receive this prestigious award.   That Citiblocs falls within the “Raw Material” category is precisely what has been motivating us from day one…how to engage children sometimes even by surprise or even against their will to create and invent and enjoy just as they are meant to do every day…observe, discover, imagine, plan, design, record, craft and construct to their hearts’ desire.  It’s called play – isn’t it? And we are thrilled to be honored with the Golden Apple award by GreatSchools, whose organization surely salutes the power of play,” exclaims Marjorie Israel Chayette, Founder and President of CitiBlocs, LLC.
Here are the 2011 Golden Apple Award winners for Best in STEM, Best Learning Toy, and Editor’s Pick:

2011 Golden Apple Award Winners by Age Categories
Ages 3-5

  • Citiblocs by Citiblocs, LLC  - Best in STEM
  • My First Lego Set by LEGO Systems, Inc. - Best in STEM
  • Kaleido Gears by Quercetti - Best in STEM
  • Now I’m Reading! Plays: Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Innovative Kids – Best Learning Toy
  • Now I’m Reading! Flashcards: Consonant Blend Words by Innovative Kids – Best Learning Toy
  • Tag Reader/ Learn to Write and Draw by Leap Frog – Best Learning Toy

Ages 6-8

  • Geomate Jr. by Apisphere, Inc. - Best in STEM
  • Zoomy handheld Digital Microscope by Learning Resources- Best in STEM
  • The Klutz Guide to the Galaxy by Klutz - Best in STEM
  • Marble Run Vortis by Quercetti -  Best Learning Toy
  • USA Interactive Talking Map by Zanzoon – Best Learning Toy
  • Tag™ United States of America Map by Leap Frog– Best Learning Toy

Ages 9+

  • Math Science by 4M Industrial Development Limited- Best in STEM
  • Sustainable Earth Lab by Thames & Kosmos - Best in STEM
  • ReCon 6.0 Programmable Rover, SmartLab Toys- Best in STEM
  • Future Farm by Wild Science – Best Learning Toy
  • Letters for Freedom; The Civil War by Innovative Kids – Best Learning Toy
  • Kitchen Science by 4M Industrial Development Limited – Best Learning Toy

Editor’s Pick: LeapPad Explorer by LeapFrog

Our Process
Our toy evaluation criteria are based on more than a decade of GreatSchools’ expertise about how parents can support their children’s education. Out of three dozen toy companies and 70 toy submissions, GreatSchools chose the most promising products for testing by families with children in the target age. GreatSchools staff of educational and parent experts then evaluated the products for functionality, design, safety, and learning potential, incorporating the feedback from the toy-testing families.

Our Editor’s Pick is Leap Frog’s LeapPad Explorer. This toy is like an iPad for kids, and it’s truly educational.  From STEM concepts to learning to read and write, the LeapPad Explorer gets kids excited about reading, writing, and math and science basics.

The list of 18 winning toys are affordable, well designed, and reflect a wide range of children’s interests -- from science projects that bubble to toys that teach reading and bring out the little actor in your child. Prices range from $10 to $150. For complete information about the Golden Apple Award winners and other educational toys, games and books, visit our full winner’s list.

About GreatSchools
GreatSchools is a national nonprofit whose mission is to inspire and guide parents to be effective champions of their children's education at home and in their communities.  Founded in 1998, GreatSchools reaches close to 40M people each year through its flagship website, GreatSchools.org, and through its e-learning resources and local programs. For more information, visit greatschools.org.

Media Contact:
Kristan Kirsh
(dir): 415-983-3863
(cell): 650-814-1273


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