Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tips for Recycling Old Toys

Happy Earth Day! Today marks the one day every Spring when we pay extra attention to being green and making sure our lifestyles are in-line with reducing, reusing and recycling. Usually when these buzzwords are thrown around, our minds immediately go to the things we toss into our garbage cans and recycling bins daily-- food containers, tissues, or banana peels.

But Earth Day is also a great chance to remember those things that don't get tossed in the bin on a regular basis. Think about it: does your family have a system for donating or recycling old clothing? What about electronics; how do you responsibly dispose of an old cell phone that you have no use for anymore? And, perhaps one of the biggest questions for families with growing kids, where do all your old toys end up?

When I was little, I was a fiend for collecting stuffed animals. Yes, I was young at the height of the Beanie Baby craze, but I like to think my passion for plush stretched beyond that of a normal kid. I took my animals seriously and rescued neglected toys whenever I possibly could. With lots of siblings and thirty-something cousins that lived within driving distance, often a new buddy could be found if I knew which forgotten corners of the basement to search.

I can remember needing my sister to help me shut the doors of the cedar armoire where I kept all of my pets because it was so over-crowded with my stuff. As I entered my "tween" years, though, my mom helped me to slowly get rid of all of the old toys until I was left with my one most beloved stuffed dog (who still sits on my shelf at home!). With so many toys accumulated through the years, my mom was able to teach me a lot about responsibly getting rid of old things.

Here are some of the tips that have stuck with me into adulthood. Put them to use when you find yourself Spring Cleaning this year, and remember that getting rid of old things should still be done with as much environmental friendliness as possible!

1. Think first about ways to repurpose your toys. That might mean passing them on to a friend with young kids, or creating some artwork with old things! You can find plenty of tutorials for these sorts of things online!

2. Remember: getting rid of toys can feel sad for some kids, so involve them in the process! If my collection was getting out of hand, my mom would give me a shopping bag, telling me I had to fill it up with toys. I got to choose which ones got the boot, which always made the process easier!

3. It might also be a chance to teach about entrepreneurial skills. If I wanted a new toy, my mom would encourage me to sell some of my old things. I wan't allowed to have my own garage sale nor was the internet an option at the time, but I would get involved with my church's White Elephant sales. It always took a long time to make a buck, which taught me a lot about the value of a dollar! Plus, it meant the toy could find another life and not go straight to a landfill.

4. Know where you can or cannot donate. My mom was a teacher, so I always suggested that she take my old toys to her school for the kids there to play with, which is when I learned that donating stuffed toys was iffy territory. They're tough to clean, so schools and some thrift stores won't accept them as donations, or they'll only accept donations of toys that have been "gently used." Call ahead before you try and make a donation!

5. Stretch out its life if you can. When we couldn't donate a toy, find another use for it, or sell it a, I could sometimes be convinced to turn an old stuffed animal into a toy for my golden retriever, or sometimes my mom used a toy that was on its last legs as a dusting rag. She'd always tear it to bits, getting as much use out of the item as she could!

6. Find a rule. Part of what allowed me to part from stuffed animals is that my mom came up with systems that helped me understand that I could part with many of them. She would give me a box to pack up the old toys, then, we would write the date on the box and store it in my closet. I could dip into my store if I remembered something in there that I wanted to retrieve, but otherwise, any toys left in there after one year would be recycled or donated.

7. Last, if parting with beloved toys proves to be tough on your little ones, think about memorializing beloved old buddies with a tool like Artkive. Designed to help parents remember pieces of artwork brought home by their kids, the app can also serve as a paperless catalog of old things you want to remember!

If you have any helpful tips for reusing or recycling old toys, let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to come visit us for Fluff, the story of lost toys, at the New Vic from April 26 - May 4! The show will give you and your family a glimpse of the quirky lives toys can lead when they're lost and then found again!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Career Panel Reflection from Usher Gabriel Fortuna

Note from the editor: Each season the New Victory Usher Corps participates in several career panels. Based on suggestions from the ushers, a panel of professionals are gathered by staff and the New Vic Council in order to answer questions and network with the students in our Usher Corps program. 

By Gabriel Fortuna, New Vic Usher

I have attended three Career Panels, but this most recent one opened up my eyes a bit more than the others. The panel included Police Officer Supervisor in Child Homicide/Assault Prosecution at Queen's County District Attorney's Office and Chief of the DNA Prosecution Unit/Mayor Crimes Division at the Queens County District Attorney's Office. I've never felt interested in being a police officer or working in the Criminal Justice field before, but listening to these three successful people was incredible in so many ways. All three spoke professionally and intelligently. They inspired me to look more into those careers because of the way they shared details about their daily duties and information about their careers.

Gabriel, working on this blog post!
First on the panel was Jeffrey Zambrano. Office Zambrano is the Police Officer in the 43 precinct. He works for New York City’s Police Department in the school unit, in the 43rd precinct located in the Bronx. I pulled him aside after the panel to talk to him more since the precinct where he works is near the neighborhood where I live. It was interesting to get to know a bit more about how things go for him as a cop and to learn more about his personal life and journey. It was awesome to learn more about this person who serves my community every day.

When I asked him about the best part of his job, he answered by saying that it's important to him to get all of the guns out of the streets. He sees how dangerous they are to citizens. That stuck in my mind because I couldn't agree more. Guns bring a lot of destruction to our city and the world. Others might disagree, but people that have lost family due to gun violence would agree with me. It is important to take guns out of the streets now so that people could live their life peacefully and I admire the work that Officer Zambrano is doing to change people's lives in this way.

Next, there was Leigh Bishop. Ms. Bishop is the Supervisor in Child Homicide/Assault Prosecution at Queen's County District Attorney's Office and a mother of two. Hearing her speak about her career was wonderful. It was clear that she is hard worker and my main takeaway was her discussion of how people perceive her in the workplace. She said that others sometimes think of her as a mean person at work, but she said that if she didn’t act that way, people might not understand how seriously she takes her job. That idea stuck with me because it showed Ms. Bishop's passion and fearlessness.

Last was Eric Rosenbaum, Chief of the DNA Prosecution Unit/Mayor Crimes Division at the Queens County District Attorney's Office. Eric and Leigh work together and it was particularly interesting to hear them speak about their relationship as colleagues. They helped me to realize the value of having a good team and working together because they both talked about the skills that that helped the another. They both work in the same place but in different roles and it is wonderful because they seem to have a good friendship and love their careers.

There was a lot of things that stuck with me that Eric spoke about. One very interesting story was when he described working on files that were never solved. The files has been left alone for a long time because there wasn't any way to get DNA, but in the years since 2000, a DNA database has been created that investigators can use to find anyone's DNA. He has already solved six cases that had previously been left unsolved, giving victims from years ago reassurance, and allowing them to live their lives knowing that criminals had been caught. I can tell he has a good heart, because of how passionately he spoke about solving crimes and helping crime victims.

Any time there's a Career Panel, I will attend it because I get so much information about wonderful people in our community. In the future, I want to become a Civil Engineer. While we didn't speak with a Civil Engineer, attending these panels helps me to see how my career might tie into other industries or organizations. I took all the positive feedback and advice that all three gave me and I will take it with me wherever I go. The main thing I learned from these three professionals that affected my thinking is that I should never give up on anything that I want to do and I should take advantage of every opportunity that heads my way.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Baby's First Time at the Theater

Are children ever too young for the theater? While certain museums and theaters put age minimums on their exhibits and shows, there is scientific evidence that confirms the benefits of arts education for children, even before they can walk and talk. So, over time it became increasingly important to us that we look at programming for very young audiences.

Luckily, here at the New Vic we have a focus group practically built-in! In the past year alone, multiple staffers have welcomed new bundles of joy into their families. And with This [Baby] Life happening at our New 42nd Street Studios, we wanted to take advantage of our panel of experts to make sure we had some feedback and helpful thoughts to share for parents who still feel unsure about venturing out to a show for the first time. We enlisted the help of New Victory Digital Services Director Lilaia Kairis and her 14-month-old daughter Siena, who shared some thoughts about their experience. This was Siena's first theater outing!

"I was very excited to bring Siena to see her first New Victory Show," said Lilaia. "About a month ago she started dancing or rocking side to side when listening to music. About a week ago she started singing little songs to herself while she plays. I thought I would have to wait longer for the right opportunity, but luckily, this year, we have two shows that are appropriate for very little ones."

The show, This [Baby] Life by Sally Chance Dance out of Adelaide, Australia, was designed specifically for children, aged 4 to 18 months...and their parents. The company promised an experience that was welcoming and cozy for new parents, but also invited babies to explore the performance space.

"Honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect," continued Lilaia, "as I've never been to a show that was created with such a very young audience in mind. I thought the performance would end up being more for me than for her, but after the initial settling down period, you could see the babies getting caught up in watching the performers. A few little ones even became part of the action, which was not at all discouraged! The performers adapted to and were influenced by the sounds and movements of their audience. It was kind of mesmerizing to watch it unfold."

"My favorite moment was when one of the performers played a rainbow-colored xylophone (like I had when I was a kid) and then made it dance in the air like a kite. It was a simple movement, but the babies were absolutely transfixed. I think all of the parents would agree that it was very special."

Aside from the performance, we know there are a lot of additional factors for parents to consider with this sort of outing -- from snack time to bathroom breaks (or changing tables). Our team not only tried to put together an accommodating space for parents and babies' needs, but also built additional activities to get families comfortable venturing out and engaging with the space.

When we asked Lilaia what she thought of the experience beyond the show, she said, "the whole environment was very welcoming, but the staff was particularly helpful in encouraging us to get comfortable on the floor right away and engage with the pre-show activities."

This [Baby] Life completed its run on February 23, but if this sounds like the right fit for you and your family, check out our next show recommended for kids of this age. Baby Rave will play at The Duke on 42nd Street from May 7-18 and is recommended for kids, ages 4 months to 4 years.

Will Lilaia and Siena be back?

"We're coming back for Baby Rave... I'm hoping in a few months she'll be dancing even more!"