tools and toys

Aroundsquare works hard to bring you good things related to our core themes of social transformation, learning, and development. While a lot of our work is takes place upstream in the world of ideas, programme designs, and evaluation reports, we are slowly building up a portfolio of tangible goods that will appeal to broader audiences as well. This page introduces some of those. For feedback, wholesale information, or other questions about our work, please contact us


Titan Begleri

Category: skill toy
Developed: 2016
Rights: Aroundsquare Ltd.
Link: Shop

Basic Info

The Titan begleri have been meticulously designed for high performance, technical play, and hard everyday use. They feature the innovative "gumdrop" bead design, with a domed top for very smooth play, and a straight, knurled barrel for superior control, and just the right amount of rounding around all outer edges. The Titans were initially designed as a high end, titanium begleri, and were followed shortly by a more economical aluminum version. 

Details

The Titan design is the result of months of development, multiple prototypes, and hundreds of hours of play testing with feedback from players all around the world. The design has been specifically engineered and refined to delivery very smooth play in all styles, without compromises in size or shape that would affect technical tricks. 

Both the titanium Titans, and the aluminum AL Sport series are available in "natty" natural metal finish, as well as coloured options. The coloured titanium versions are coated through a process called physical vapour deposition (PVD), which provides a very robust finish that stands up very well to extended use and drops. The aluminum version is anodized, which helps to give the surface metal a reasonable degree of scratch resistance, and allows for brilliant colour options. 

They are extremely durable and very well weighted, and the bead design plays, feels, and looks amazing. The original Titans are made from grade five titanium (the strongest commercial grade), measure 19mm by 19mm, and weigh in at 17g per bead. The aluminum Titan AL Sport series is 20mm by 20mm, and around 13g per bead. Both versions come with several extra strings, a fist full of stickers, a canvas carry bag, an info card, and a slick little gift box. 

 

 

 

 


The Concept Deck

Category: skill toy
Developed: 2016
Rights: Aroundsquare Ltd.
Link: TBA

Basic Info

The Concept is a card deck designed purely for cardistry. The deck consists of 55 identical standard casino quality cards, with no faces, numbers, or pips. Instead, the deck is printed with a simple geometric pattern that produces interesting pattners when the deck is fanned, and striking contrast during cuts and other card flourishes. 

Details

The Concept Deck eschews conventional wisdom and conventional styling. Recognizing the art of cardistry as the manipulation of cards to produce stunning visual effects, and seeing this as distinct from other forms of card handling, such as magic, and casino games, Aroundsquare sought to produce a card design that would unlock the full potential of a card deck. The quest to produce a card purely for this purpose resulted in a string of design decisions that, collectively, have resulted in a truly distinctive card design. 

The first decision was to drop the standard card faces, numbers, suits, and pips. If the cards are not being used for card games or magic tricks, then there is no need for this visual clutter. Instead, AO2 has used the entire printable area, front and back, for the sole purpose of visual effects. The Concept Deck has 55 identical cards. 

The second decision was to think of the deck as a system, rather than a collection of individual cards. While each card is richly printed and sufficiently interesting on its own, the Concept Deck is designed so that the cards will work together, front and back, layered, fanned, flipped, and spread, to produce visual effects that are more than the sum of their parts. The intricate and subtle details of many artistic decks are lost during flourishing, so instead, Aroundsquare opted for big, bold, solid blocks that can be perceived quickly by the eyes.  

The third decision was to drop the standard borders found on most cards, in favour of a full-bleed design with edge to edge printing. This adds to the fluidity observed during flourishing, while the geometry and contrasting colours of the printed design still create a separation of space and sense of movement during cuts. Perhaps more importantly, the borderless design also allows for fans and spreads in which the visual field is not constantly interrupted by contrasting colours. 

The fourth decision was print the cards with the same pattern on both sides, but using vibrant full spectrum colours on one side, and a dark greyscale on the other. This results in a high degree of contrast between the two sides, which is striking during flourishes, and can evoke a very different look and feel depending on how the cards are displayed. Flashes of colour between dark grey cards, and flashes of darkness between the colours, add to the effect.

The fifth design decision was the card art itself, which uses a simple geometric pattern that is symmetrical when rotated but still allows four distinct corner patterns to be displayed. As a result, four different fan patterns can be created, using either side of the cards, making a total of eight simple fans possible, and many more if the cards are shuffled or layered. This artwork has also been designed to create uninterrupted patterns when laid flat, opening up interesting possibilities for table work. 

 


Wukong Begleri

Wukong Begleri Pre Order Colour Way

Category: skill toy
Developed: 2016
Rights: Aroundsquare and MonkeyfingeR Design
Link: MFD Zoo Shop

Basic Info

Begleri is a small skill toy that originated in Greece, consisting of one or more beads on either end of a string. Recognizing the potential of begleri, Aroundsquare teamed up with MonkeyfingeR Design to produce a specialized version of begleri for the skill toy market. The result is the Wukong Begleri, a carefully designed set of begleri beads, machined from high grade aluminum and beautifully anodized in a range of colour ways. 

Details

The Wukong Begleri are precision machined from 7075 aluminum to a diameter of 22mm, and drilled out to perfectly house the string and countersink the knot that secures the beads. The beads are anodized in a range of colour ways, usually combining two or more colours, in drizzle or splash pattern. The design of the Wukongs is tailored to the skill toy market, and is intended to strike the optimal balance between weight, size, playabiltiy, and visibility.

In addition to the design and development of the toy itself, Aroundsquare has been highly active in the development of the begleri community outside of Greece, in order to help bring this toy to a broader audience as an alternative to screen-based passtimes. Contributions to the community have included active participation and moderation responsibilities in online groups and forums for begleri enthusiasts, the development of baseline content for a forthcoming begleri wiki; and a set of tutorials that introduce new players to the basics of the toy. 


Education for Democracy: A Guidebook for Educators

Category: transformative education
Developed: 2014
Rights: E-Collaborative for Civic Education
Link: Tavaana

Basic Info

Democracy Education - A Field Guide for Educators is a succinct guidebook on the theory and practice of democracy education. The 50-page volume provides a critical inquiry into the issue of democracy in education, and practical guidelines to help educators systematically incorporate democratic values and principles into their practice. 

Details

This Tavaana-exclusive manual explores the topic of political socialization in schools, and presents a compelling, democratic alternative to traditional authoritarian models of education. Using this practical guidebook, readers will explore the kind of learning necessary for active democratic citizenship, and what education professionals can do to facilitate that learning. Ultimately, readers will be equipped with the knowledge to foster independent, critical thought.

The manual tackles the challenging issue of the "hidden curriculum" head on, by presenting a systematic approach for infusing democratic values and principles into both classroom practice and education management. It argues that these approaches are not only democratic--they also happen to be consistent with best practices in education more generally, making the content suitable not only for those interested in supporting democratization, but also for those simply looking for practical advice to help engage their students and facilitate learning. 

Education for Democracy: A Guidebook for Educators, is available in English and Farsi. 

 


Monkey Knuckles

Category: skill toy
Developed: 2003
Rights: Yomega Corp. (2014)
Link: Yomega

Basic Info

Monkey Knuckles is about as simple as a toy can be. It consists of two large balls tethered on a string, with two small beads at either end that serve as grips or counterweights. The idea is to use the different structural elements of the toy in order to create different patterns of motion, isolated tricks, and combinations. The design of Monkey Knuckles allows players to integrate elements of play from a number of other skill toys, including yo-yos, poi, and others, as well as totally unique styles of play.

Details

Monkey Knuckles was first developed in 2003, partially in response to trends that were seeing other toys, including other skill toys, becoming increasingly high tech and sophisticated. Monkey Knuckles was an attempt to get back to a more basic kind of play that was not reliant on precision engineering, and would offer a rewarding experience for beginners learning their first tricks, as well as having the depth to allow advanced players to come up with more technical moves. Monkey Knuckles allows for both individual tricks and continuous flow which links tricks together. One of the unique features of the toy is that there is rarely a drop or a "reset" required. When a trick is missed, it is relatively easy for players to recover by linking their play with a different move instead. 
  
The most notable characteristic of Monkey Knuckles is its simplicity, but this simplicity creates opportunities for play. With most toys, there tends to be a negative correlation between complexity and flexibility--the more complicated a toy is, the fewer ways there are to play with it. With Monkey Knuckles, it's the opposite. The simple design makes it very open ended, allowing great creative opportunities and many different styles of play. 

Chronology

  • 2001: first prototypes developed
  • 2003: provisional patent filed
  • 2005: full patent filed for the design of "toy having two sliding balls on a string with end stoppers"
  • 2007:  first offered for sale on Etsy and at Market Collective (Calgary)
  • 2014: soft launch of Monkey Knuckles at the New York International Toy Fair
  • 2014: licensed to Yomega Corp
  • 2015 Kuma Films 

Goodwood Deconstruction Blocks

Category: construction toy
Developed: 2010
Rights: open source (creative commons)
Link: Aroundsquare

Basic Info

Goodwood Deconstruction Blocks are a system of wooden blocks, designed to invite real creative play. The blocks come in six vibrant colours, and the eight different sets in the range are all inter-compatible, with each offering slightly different options for building and play. 

Details

These beautiful, precisely crafted blocks are striking to look at, and captivating to play with. The different designs allow for building outwards in every dimension, and the creation of structures which are both architecturally and geometrically interesting, as well as visually pleasing.  Minimalist and curious, they are suitable as a construction toy for children, and popular as a desk toy for design-minded adults

These blocks are rebelliously open-ended. They are intentionally packaged without instructions, suggestions, challenges or other prescriptive guidelines, in order to nurture truly creative play.  Unlike so many of today's toys which tend to tell the child what to do, Goodwood invites the child to make their own decisions and come up with their own ways to play.  This is a fundamentally empowering experience for children, reflecting the belief that good play provides a foundation for good citizenship.

Aroundsquare makes its Goodwood desings available under a Creative Commons license making them among the first truly "open-source toys". Each set is designed to be fun and interesting on its own, and even more when its is combined with the others. The deceptively simple (and completely biodegradable) packaging hides away a rainbow of vibrant colors, painted with non-toxic water-based acrylic paint, and made from forest-friendly, plantation grown rubber wood. A list of retailers carrying this line is available here

Chronology

  • 2008: Initial four designs launched
  • 2008: Exclusive onilne partnership with Moolka
  • 2009: Four additional designs added to the range
  • 2010: Dr. Toy Best Green Product Award
  • 2010: Dr. Toy Best Vacation Product Award
  • 2013: Dr. Toy 100 Best Children's Products Award
  • 2014: Dr. Toy 10 Best Building Products Award
  • 2013: Academics' Choice Mindspring Award
  • 2014: Partnership with EcoParade for nation-wide distribution in Canada

Islands of Inspiration: Education for Sustainable Development in Small Island Developing States

Category: transformative education
Developed: 2012
Rights: The Commonwealth Secretariat
Link: The Commonwealth Secretariat

Basic Info

Islands of Inspiration presents an analysis of best practices and gaps in the implementation of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) across 10 small island developing states of the Caribbean, Pacific, and AIMS regions. The 64-page volume provides a conceptual background for understanding what constitutes effective ESD, and presents findings in the context of dozens of examples of ESD initiatives at all levels of the education system.

Details

From the Commonwealth Secretariat: Education for sustainable development (ESD) is an essential element of the global response to environmental challenges. It helps young people understand and address the impact of global warming, encourages changes in their attitudes and behaviour to help mitigate environmental change, and gives them the knowledge and skills necessary for them to adapt to that change.

This study analyses good practices and gaps in ESD implementation
in ten small island states vulnerable to climate change: Dominica, Guyana and Jamaica (Caribbean region), Maldives and Mauritius (Africa, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean and South China Seas region) and Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa,
Solomon Islands and Tonga (Pacific region).

The study focuses particularly on climate change education, and provides practical and realistic recommendations on how ESD may be better integrated in education policy and strategy and delivered more comprehensively.


Structure As Freedom

Category: abstract painting series
Developed: 2012-ongoing
Rights: N/A
Link: Aroundsquare

Basic Info

Abstract paintings of various sizes--acrylic on canvas. These paintings are developed using the simple structure of vertical stripes, added layer by layer. Through the application of multiples layers, colour patterns and interesting textures develop. 

Details

Aroundsquare's visual art explores the relationship between constraints and creativity, between structure and freedom, and how fundamental structures are subsumed as new ones are built upon them. The work is composed of simple vertical lines of a fixed width. Far from limiting the work, this apparent constraint has proven extraordinarily liberating, providing a means to overcome the tyranny of a structureless context.

The work has developed into an extended epistemological experiment, using the simple grammar of vertical lines to create rich abstract compositions. As the paintings develop, layers of acrylic are lost beneath the surface, each building on the last, and providing texture for the next. These works are created over time, with many requiring months of patient development, and consisting of many hundreds of individual lines. Like consciousness, the paintings begin vague and fragmented, and coalesce slowly as colour patterns and forms begin to emerge. The resulting work has depth and stability to it, while maintaining an organic, living character. The paintings evoke a wide range of emotions and impressions.


Twig 

Category: construction toy
Developed: 2007
Rights: Fat Brain Toys LLC. (2007)
Link: Fat Brain Toys

Basic Info

Twig is a wooden block set, designed to promote open-ended creative play. The simplicity of traditional blocks is retained, but the open design allows for all sorts of new building possibilities. The set comes with 72 pieces in six vibrant colours. 

Details

From Fat Brain Toys: Wondering what makes Twig blocks so special? It's not the green conscious design and packaging, the colors, or even the shapes. It's your hands and mind in concert with the finest materials for amazing building. Equally appealing in the playroom, in your office, or on the coffee table, Twig is designed for everyone.

With Twig, you create using your mind's eye... Your mind finds satisfaction in sorting colors, finding solutions for intermixing pieces of varying depth, accommodating diverse interior dimensions and shapes, and making final adjustments to your masterpieces. Precision-cut wood pieces slide in between and next to one another with ease while extra rich colors add terrific flair to structures.

Learning comes naturally! Twig construction sets refine small motor abilities while developing skills in logic, problem solving, visual-spatial ability, creativity and ingenuity, sensory awareness, language & vocabulary proficiencies, cooperative and independent play skills, and artistic expression. Kids love putting the unique interchanging pieces together - Adults love the freedom of design!

Precision wooden shapes and vibrant colors meet in modern building blocks. Natural wood is carved with care and colored with brilliant rubberwood and water based paint. Light plays its way through the windows of Twig, illuminating lines, contours, space, and arrangement. Open your mind and imagination to new exercises in visual spatial development!

Chronology

  • 2004: Twig designed, with first prototypes developed using a 1cm base unit
  • 2005-2007: further experimentation with shapes and sizes, leading to final design with 1.5cm base unit (fun fact: many of these were made from actual twigs, planed to a square cross section)
  • 2007: first offered for sale on Etsy and at Market Collective (Calgary)
  • 2008: licensed to Fat Brain Toy Co. 
  • 2009: Parents' Choice Gold Award
  • 2009: Creative Child Toy of the Year Award
  • 2009: Dr. Toy Best Green Product
  • 2009: NAPPA - National Parenting Publications Honors Award
  • 2009: Exceptional Parent Magazine's Top toy Picks for 2009
  • 2009: Grandkids Superproduct Award
  • 2013: Slow Toy Award