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Clutching at creative straws

Toobz Starter Kit Artstraws, pound;17.15 + VAT Tel: 01792 796 151 Email:

I t's in our nature as technology teachers to always be on the look out for new ways of reinventing the wheel. Sitting in a well-known fast food establishment I have often wondered how I could put to good use all of the plastic straws festooned around the place. But then I start thinking about the practicalities. How many of those sickly drinks will I need to drink; how will I adapt straws that always bend in the wrong place and what can I cut them with as scissors always seem to flatten the ends and a craft knife can be a safety issue in the wrong hands. Then there is the problem of joining them - cutting a slit rarely works as you end up with loads of fan-tailed straws. Try cutting holes in them and they flatten and this becomes a weak spot. Frustration soon sets in and you end up looking at the little yellow foam box the main meal is supplied in. With the Toobz Starter Kit, these problems are history.

The Toobz Starter Kit arrived in my classroom last thing on a Friday afternoon and by Monday morning had four new schemes of work, which can be easily linked to many core and foundation subject, all adaptable to use in KS2,KS3 and KS4.

Toobz is a complete design and make system that uses a safe, multi-function tool that can measure, cut, punch and join plastic straws. It comes in two parts (for packaging) and is assembled in seconds - simply clipping into place. It is very sturdy and showed no signs of breakage even at the hands of my three-and-a-half year-old son who quickly pounced upon it, fitted it together and started pushing straws into holes and cutting them to his hearts content. I mention this, as he demonstrates what a simple and safe tool it is to use.

Supplied with the kit are 250 straws, wiggly eyes, EPE foam balls, and wheels, which immediately get the grey matter working on its possibilities.

Then there are the worksheets. The diagrams are excellent, with very clear drawings means there is little need for extensive written instructions.

They take you through stage by stage, indicating how many components you require for each skill - thinking about a class activity it is very easy to monitor the resources required. These sheets take through mini projects.

The Toobz tool functions allow clean cuts, perfect punched holes at a number of angles to aid construction, a clever little tool expands the end of a straw to allow another to fit inside - brilliant. To make it even easier to use they have included threading rods - fit one inside the straw and feed it through a punched hole; no flattening, no crumpled and bent straw just a smooth connection.

Having built a miniature playground (skill 2), a buggy and a dinosaur I was ready to go in on Monday with lots of new ideas for projects.

Products in the Toobz Range are Starter kit, Toobz, Threading rods, Toobz Tool and Flexi Toobz.

Paul Talbot is head of art and technology at Woodfield School, Kingsbury, London

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