Monday, June 6, 2016

Little Green Army Men in the Classroom

Little Green Army Men

Toy soldiers have been around a long time. I'm guessing as long as there have been soldiers, there have been toy figures representing them. At least as far back as the Roman Empire, the Greeks, the Egyptians...heck, a Chinese emperor had an entire terra cotta army built and buried for him. That guys likes his toys as much as I do!  In any case, they've been around. They hit new heights as metal figures (pewter, lead, and tin, so don't chew on them, kids) in the nineteenth century, before becoming part of modern warfare in 1938, and transitioning to the plastic "Little Green Army Men" we know in the 1950s. 

They're not action figures, they're not painted and articulated, they're just little pieces of colored, molded plastic. Some companies have been using the same molds since the 1960s, so chances are good that you'll see exactly the same army dudes (and the dinosaurs and farm animals, which is what really triggered the memories) that you played with when you were a pup. Because they're so cheap, they're...crazy cheap. You can amass armies quickly and cheaply, which makes the Little Green Army Men perfect manipulatives for anything involving numbers. For a few more dollars, there are also army men that represent specific conflicts, like the Civil War or World War II. I also really like the Little Pink Army Men...I'm not sure if it's subversive or sending a statement or for Awareness, but they' 

Fifteen quick ideas: 

  • Math problems, especially for younger grades
  • Patterns 
  • Demographic charts (each figure represents X number of people)
  • Stop motion animation 
  • Recreate a setting from a novel
  • Build and populate a community
  • Storytelling of an individual vs a group (are we telling the story of a stereotype or an invididual?)
  • Recreating tableaux from famous paintings
  • Design their own "Little Green Army Man/Woman" representing someone not included in the classic poses
  • Stage dioramas of non-military events (I try not say "duh," but...duh)
  • Recreate famous war photos and paintings
  • Stage dioramas of non-military events  
  • Stage dioramas of military personnel helping a community
  • Classroom debate: do Little Green Army Men best represent the values of our nation? Your home state? Your community? 
  • If not, have students design toys that they feel are a better representation of their lives in 2016. (so many little figures taking selfies...) 

Alternatives to Little Green Army Men

When it comes down to it, I'm kind of a hippie. But a really lazy one. So I'm not going to protest or anything, but sometimes the imagery of war gets to be too much. And I'm saying that as a history teachers, who often tentpoles his curriculum around wars. But there are times I don't want to use Little Green Army Men. Maybe I have kids who are agitated by war and guns. Maybe my administration doesn't want me bringing tiny toy guns to school. The great news is, there are a lot of alternatives out there. 

The "Dollar Spot" near the front of Target stores often has bagged plastic figures for a dollar. They're not army guys, they're red and blue and green superheroes, and pink and purple and teal princesses and fairies, and ninjas--you get more variety than your standard army guys. 

If you go up in price a little bit, there are bags and canisters and tubes of pirates, zombies, (and still, in 2016) Cowboys & Indians. ...which I'm totally down with using as long they're placed in a historic context. Which is doable. Zombies too. All about the historic context. There are also monsters, and cavemen, and firefighters, and spacemen. Really, just look up TimMee Toys on Amazon, OR "Big Bucket of" and you'll be astounded at the variety that's out there. 

There are the classic dinosaurs, jungle, and farm animals. I love mixing in dinosaurs with any curriculum, honestly. If they're making a little diorama of the Constitutional Convention, and they throw in a T-Rex as Benjamin Franklin? That's an A+++++ my friend. I mean, he was the oldest member of the convention -- a dinosaur might not be too far off. 

There have been also some artful takes on Little Green Army Men. Some of my favorites include the Toy Boarders -- sets of 24 Skaters, Surfers, and Snowboarders for about $8.00. I can name some middle school boys by name (okay, I made one of them) who would do just about anything to be able to use those in a "legitimate" classroom setting. 

Last, but certainly not least,
are the Yoga Joes -- a set of eight soldiers in key yoga poses: Meditation, Downward-facing Dog, Cobra, Warrior One, Warrior Two (appropriate) -- you get the idea. They're fun, they're pricey, they were a gift at the right time from a friend, and they've made me double down on my commitment to yoga and to violence. Two birds, one stone. Namaste. 

For more ideas on using toys in the classroom, check out Play Like a Pirate: Engage Students with Toys, Games, and Comics -- available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon

Subscribe to the Play Like a PIRATE Newsletter!

* indicates required
Email Format


  1. Fascinate web solution one of the leading web development company in delhi.we provide all kind of digital marketing services at very reasonable price.we are expert in making modern responsive and Ecommerce websites.we have expert web developer & web desiner.+91-9891522646, 011-45637646

  2. This is a brilliant blog! I'm very happy with the comments!.. Militar

  3. This concept is a good way to enhance knowledge. I like it and help me to development very well. Thank you for this brief explanation and very nice information. Well, got good knowledge. Tik Tok

  4. विश्व मानव समाज कल्याण परिषद् [पार्टी] की पूर्ण बहुमत की सरकार बनने पर लोकपाल विधेयक लाकर लोकपाल की नियुक्ति की जाएगी| इस तरह भ्रष्टाचार पर लगाम लगाते हुए प्रधानमंत्री को भी लोकपाल के दायरे में लाया जाएगा|
    +91 - 9450992920

    PureKana Natural CBD Oil is an unflavored dietary and nutritional supplement for increased health and vitality. Best for those with sensitivity issues or who don’t like flavoring additives, our CBD oil has a light natural hemp taste and aroma you will barely notice.
    • Unflavored
    • Organic
    • Non-GMO
    • No pesticides, herbicides, solvents or chemical fertilizers
    • Non-psychoactive (Less than .02% THC)
    • Laboratory tested to ensure safety and potency
    PureKana is your best source for organically-grown, high-concentrate CBD oil in natural flavor. It’s safe, affordable, legal and easy to use.

  6. Wow, What a Excellent post. I really found this to much informatics. It is what i was searching for.I would like to suggest you that please keep sharing such type of info.Thanks

  7. Pest control company with the most outstanding news thanks to its control services at a high level of accuracy and efficiency and professionally under the supervision of the strongest team composed of a distinguished elite of the most skilled workers trained in the use of the latest technology and effective techniques to eliminate the spread of insects since the first use.
    شركة مكافحة حشرات
    شركة مكافحة النمل الابيض بالرياض
    شركة مكافحة الصراصير بالرياض

  8. Pleasant to be going to your online journal yet again, it has been months for me. Well this article ive been sat tight for thusly long. i need this article to complete my task inside of the staff, and it has same subject together with your article. Much appreciated, pleasant offer.
    Registering Ideal Domain

  9. I really like using Hotmail but I can't solve my trouble without hotmail email login, I think this website are gonna be helpful to you.

  10. Nhân Sâm Trường Thọ chuyên cung cấp các sản phẩm chính hãng chất lượng:

    Trà hồng sâm Hàn Quốc

    Hồng sâm Hàn Quốc 6 năm tuổi

    Sản phẩm nhân sâm nhập khẩu trực tiếp từ Hàn Quốc có chất lượng đảm bảo, bao bì đóng gói đẹp mắt, sang trọng, vô cùng thích hợp để làm quà biếu, quà tặng.

    Địa chỉ: 853 - 855 Nguyễn Kiệm, P.3, Q.Gò Vấp, TP.HCM.

    Tel: +84 (28) 350.66666

    Hotline: 090.77.999.88

  11. I seriously love your website.. Excellent colors & theme.
    Did you create this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as I’m attempting to create my own site
    and want to know where you got this from or just what the theme is named.

    Review my webpage - 부산달리기


  12. Công ty Tất Phú là nhà phân phối tấm cemboard, tấm xi măng cemboard thái lan chất lượng, uy tín hiện nay tại Hà Nội:

    Địa chỉ: Tầng 3, tòa nhà Shodex, số 245 Tam Trinh, Hoàng Mai, Hà Nội

    Điện thoại: 024 66604646 – 0977 688 695

  13. I'm extremely inspired along with your writing skills as neatly as with the format in your blog. Is that a paid subject or did you customize it yourself? Anyway stay up the excellent quality writing, it's rare to look at a great blog like this one today.. Round Bathroom Mirrors