I know quoting a song by The Who is pretty cliché for me, but I could not think of a better description of my experience at the newest wing of the American Museum of Natural History(AMNH) in New York City. The Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation will open its doors to the world at large on May 4th, 2023, but reporters were gathered on April 26th for an advance look.
The Center (located on Columbus Avenue at 79th Street) is melded into the museum’s classic facade in the most organic and mellifluous manner. Its ocean wave curves and soft browed windows offer a hint to the natural wonders to be considered inside. But, even this unique exterior can’t fully prepare visitors for the spectacular expanse of the complex’s Kenneth C. Griffin Exploration Atrium.
Entering the space I felt as if I’d been transported into the cover of Yes’s Relayer album. The custardy curves and arches of textured concrete draw your eyes up five stories to the oblong skylights. The bone-toned walls are the perfect canvas for shadow play as the movement of exterior daylight transforms them.
It was in this space that representatives from local and international media outlets were greeted by AMNH President Sean M. Decatur. Along with AMNH Board of Trustees Chair Scott L. Bok, President Emerita Ellen V. Futter, and Architect/Designer Jeanne Gang, Decatur outlined the scope of the Gilder Center as a cross-disciplinary resource “inspiring our visitors to appreciate and learn about how all life on Earth is connected.”
The Center features several thousand objects across all scientific disciplines. The artifacts are displayed behind floor-to-ceiling glass walls of the working Louis V. Gerstner Jr. Collection Core, the Macaulay Family Foundation Collection Galleries, and the new Lepidoptera Facility. This offers visitors a view of the vast scope of the collections and a behind-the-scenes understanding of the continuing research that informs the exhibits.
In addition to the collections, museumgoers will be treated to a wholly unique experience in the Davis FamilyButterfly Vivarium. What once was a seasonal exhibit in a barebones setting, has been transformed into a permanent tropical environment filled with over 1000 live butterflies happily flitting from leaf to branch in your midst.
…and learn all you should know.
Although the exhibitions are world-class, the goals of The Gilder Center reach beyond cursory perusal. The space has been designed to be a resource for learning. Its 18 classrooms will host programs aimed at aiding New York City middle school, high school, and college students in acquiring the skills necessary to fill positions in the NYC workforce. The initiative will focus on life sciences, data analytics, museum, and hospitality industries, and participants will benefit from the AMNH’s partnerships with leaders in those fields to find job placements.
For example, after participating in The Center’s Invisible World,an immersive and interactive experience visually transports viewers from Earth’s microcosms to macrocosms, students are invited behind the scenes to investigate the data resources and technologies that are the digital backbone of presentation.
The Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation is a worthy addition to the already world-renowned American Museum of Natural History. To say this space is a must-visit for both tourists and native New Yorkers is obvious while its tacit value lies in the resources and inspiration it will offer to our future scientists and researchers.
The American Museum of Natural History looms large in my personal legend. Recognizing a valuable educational resource, my parents took me there often in my pre-school years. They also took great glee in recounting how I had to be dragged from the premises – crying inconsolably – because I could not leave with a real prehistoric fossil to legitimize my Louis Marx plastic dinosaur collection.
If “time flies when you’re having fun” then it’s no surprise that a decade has zoomed by like a jet powered pterodactyl since we began reporting on The Toy Association’s annual industry fair and the multitude of wonderful products debuted and demoed during the event.
Over that time we’ve seen some interesting and often unexpected developments both sweet and sour. We’ve welcomed a growing focus on play products that bolster Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (S.T.E.A.M.) but we also saw the demise of brick and mortar giant Toys R Us, and it’s tentative return this season.
One thing is for sure there’s no lack of interesting and creative ways to engage youngsters in play. This year’s Toy of the Year Award Nominees list is a simple way to prove it.
Winners in each of the sixteen categories will be announced at New York City’s Zeigfeld Ballroom on February 21, 2020 the night before the opening of the Toy Fair New York. The annual event serves to fund The Toy Foundation which partners with toy companies to deliver playthings to millions of children in need.
You can get in on the decision by voting in the www.toyawards.org before January 5, 2020.
ACTION FIGURE OF THE YEAR Toys that represent a person or fictional character intended for active, imaginative and narrative-based play
Bakugan Dragonoid Maximus Transforming Figure by Spin Master
Disney Pixar Toy Story Basic Figures by Mattel, Inc.
Heroes of Goo Jit Zu by Moose Toys
Jurassic World Destroy ‘N Devour™ Indominus Rex by Mattel, Inc.
Marvel Legends Series by Hasbro, Inc.
My Hero Academia Katsuki Bakugo Action Figure by McFarlane Toys
Power Rangers Beast Morphers Beast-X Ultrazord Figure by Hasbro, Inc.
COLLECTIBLE OF THE YEAR Toys that compose a set and can be collected in multiples; can include novelty playthings, miniature versions of existing lines, licensed collectibles, etc.
Blume by Skyrocket Toys
Hairdorables Dolls Series 3 by Just Play
L.O.L. Surprise! Winter Disco Series by MGA Entertainment
Lucky Fortune by WowWee
My Singing Monsters Collectible Musical Figures by PlayMonster
Pulp Heroes Snap Bots by Far Out Toys
Shopkins Real Littles Lil’ Shopper Pack by Moose Toys
CONSTRUCTION TOY OF THE YEAR Toys that include building as the primary play pattern
Erector by Meccano, Inventor Set, Intro to Robotics by Spin Master
Fisher-Price® Wonder Makers™ design system Build Around Town™ Starter Kit by Mattel, Inc.
LeapBuilders® ABC Smart House™ by LeapFrog
LEGO® CITY Deep Space Rocket and Launch Control by LEGO Systems, Inc.
LEGO® MARVEL Iron Man Hall of Armor by LEGO Systems, Inc.
My Robotic Pet – Tumbling Hedgehog by Thames & Kosmos
VEX Catapult 2.0 by HEXBUG
CREATIVE TOY OF THE YEAR Toys that allow kids to build and/or make items that are unique to them
Blinger by Wicked Cool Toys
Cool Maker GO GLAM Nail Stamper by Spin Master
Crayola Glitter Dots by Crayola
littleBits Electronic Music Inventor Kit by Sphero
smART Pixelator™ by Flycatcher Inc.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Droid Depot Custom Astromech Units by Disney Parks
Y’Art® Craft Kit by Kahootz
DOLL OF THE YEAR Toys that include baby, toddler, and fashion dolls
Ballerina Dreamer Dancing Ballerina by Hunter Products USA LLC
Candylocks Basic Doll by Spin Master
Creatable World by Mattel, Inc.
Cry Babies – Kristal Gets Sick & Feels Better by IMC Toys
Disney Frozen 2: “Into the Unknown” Elsa Doll by JAKKS Pacific
Disney Princess Ralph Breaks the Internet – Comfy Princess Assortment by Hasbro, Inc.
L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. Fashion Dolls by MGA Entertainment
GAME OF THE YEAR For families and children’s (ages 0-14) games including board, card, electronic or other physical game formats and puzzles, exclusive of video or app games
Funkoverse Strategy Game by Funko Games
Heist by Megableu USA
MS. MONOPOLY Board Game by Hasbro, Inc.
Orangutwang by PlayMonster
Pictionary Air by Mattel, Inc.
Ravensburger’s Disney Villainous: Evil Comes Prepared by Ravensburger
Throw Throw Burrito by Exploding Kittens
UNO Braille by Mattel, Inc.
INFANT/TODDLER TOY OF THE YEAR Toys that are developed for ages 0-3 (0-18 months infant/18 months-3 years toddler)
Fisher-Price® Linkimals™ by Mattel, Inc.
InnyBin by Fat Brain Toy Co.
KidKraft World of Eric Carle Shape Activity Cube by KidKraft
LeapBuilders® 123 Fix-It Truck™ by LeapFrog
Mix & Match-a-Saurus™ by VTech®
Musical Lili Llama by The Manhattan Toy Company
Tinker Truck by Radio Flyer
INNOVATIVE TOY OF THE YEAR Toys that utilize innovative design, technology, or manufacturing processes to enhance play value
comicam® the Instant Comic Camera by Hangzhou Rulei Technology Co., Ltd
Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak by Wow! Stuff
Hot Wheels™ id Smart Track™ Kit by Mattel, Inc.
Hot Wheels™ TechMods by Mattel, Inc.
RockIt Twist™ by LeapFrog
Shashibo (The Shape Shifting Box) by Fun In Motion Toys
tori™ Explorer Pack by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment America
LICENSE OF THE YEAR Character or property that has had success spreading its brand through the development and merchandising of products developed from the intellectual property
Baby Shark by Pinkfong
Barbie 60th Anniversary Program by Mattel, Inc.
JoJo Siwa by Nickelodeon
Marvel Avengers Endgame by Disney / Marvel Licensing
PAW Patrol Mighty Pups Super PAWs by Spin Master / Nickelodeon
Pokémon by The Pokémon Company International
Ryan’s World by pocket.watch
Toy Story 4 by The Walt Disney Company
OUTDOOR TOY OF THE YEAR Toys that are designed for outdoor play, including ride-ons
Crazy Cart® Shift™ by Razor USA
Create A Castle by Create A Castle
EzyRoller Drifter X by EzyRoller LLC
Globber GoUp COMFORT by Incredible Novelties
My Buddy Wheels by Yvolution USA, Inc.
Toilet Paper Blasters™ Sheet Storm™ by JAKKS Pacific
ZURU X-Shot Fast-Fill by ZURU
PLAYSET OF THE YEAR Toys that are designed to work together to enact some action or event, including characters and role play
Beyblade Burst Turbo Slingshock Cross Collision Battle Set by Hasbro, Inc.
Disney Frozen Ultimate Arendelle Castle Playset by Hasbro, Inc.
Hape Fire Station by Hape International Inc
Hot Wheels® Colossal Crash™ Track Set by Mattel, Inc.
L.O.L. Surprise! Winter Disco Chalet by MGA Entertainment
PLAYMOBIL Mars Space Station by PLAYMOBIL
Timber Tots by Fat Brain Toy Co.
PLUSH TOY OF THE YEAR Toys that are made of fabric and stuffed with cotton or similar filling, including toys with interactive or electronic features
Cutetitos by Basic Fun!
Dolce Safari Adventure by Magformers/DOLCE
Little Live Scruff-A-Luvs Real Rescue Electronic Pet by Moose Toys
Pinkfong Baby Shark Song Puppets with Tempo Control by WowWee
Pomsies Lumies by Skyrocket Toys
Shimmer Stars by KD Group
ZURU Rainbocorns Ultimate Sequin Surprise Series 2 by ZURU
PRESCHOOL TOY OF THE YEAR Toys that are developed for ages 3-5
Demo Duke by Spin Master
Coding Critters by Learning Resources®
Kid Trax Rideamals Unicorn by Pacific Cycle
Kindi Kids by Moose Toys
Myla the Magical Unicorn™ by VTech®
Peppa Pig’s Magical Parade Floats by Jazwares
Wild Ones™ by Razor USA
SPECIALTY TOY OF THE YEAR Toys that are distributed through independent retailers, i.e. neighborhood toy stores, and not sold at mass brick and mortar stores. Toys that are sold only online do not qualify
AirFort by AirFort
Hape Emergency Services Headquarters by Hape International Inc
LEGO® Ideas Central Perk by LEGO Systems, Inc.
LEGO® Stranger Things The Upside Down by LEGO Systems, Inc.
littleBits Space Rover Inventor Kit by Sphero
OombeeBall by Fat Brain Toy Co.
ThinkFun’s Thinking Putty Puzzle by ThinkFun, Inc.
STEM/STEAM TOY OF THE YEAR Toys that encourage kids to develop skills (foundational or curricular) in the core disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
Amazing Rescue 50Pc Set by Magformers
Artie 3000™ by Educational Insights®
Beaker Creatures Alien Experiment Lab by Learning Resources®
Crayola Color Chemistry Arctic Lab by Crayola
Gumball Machine Maker by Thames & Kosmos
LEGO® BOOST Star Wars™ Droid Commander by LEGO Systems, Inc.
Mech-5 Mechanical Coding Robot by Elenco
VEHICLE OF THE YEAR Toy cars, trucks, trains and other vehicles in all scales, including R/C vehicles but exclusive of ride-ons
Grrrumball by Alpha Group US
Hot Wheels Mario Kart Die-Cast Vehicle Assortment by Mattel, Inc.
L.O.L. Surprise! 2-in-1 Glamper by MGA Entertainment
Monster Jam Mega Grave Digger Remote Control Vehicle by Spin Master
PJ Masks PJ Seeker by Just Play
STAR WARS D-O Interactive Droid by Hasbro, Inc.
X-Power Dozer™ by JAKKS Pacific