I recently had the privilege of taking part in the Bam Radio Show “Teacher-Funded School Supplies: Reducing the Burden Without Harming Kids” with Rae Pica, Terry Heick and Cynthia Henton. The premise of the show was founded on the fact that almost all teachers use their own money to buy supplies for their classrooms. The discussion on the Bam Radio show provides insightful ideas on where schools (and teachers) can find classroom resources for less cost or for free. You will want to visit the Bam Radio show to listen to the full conversation but in the meantime, I thought I would highlight a few ideas for finding resources that I have personal experience with over the past five years…
When I start out a school year, I have a budget set aside for purchasing resources like paint, construction paper, glue, and any other resources that I feel like are a must have in my classroom. For the rest of the school year, I look for resources that will either be low cost or free. Here are some tips from the show and my own experience for finding these kinds of resources…
Virtual Community Garage Sales
Garage sales are certainly a great place to find good deals but one of my favorite places to keep an eye out for toys, furniture, books, and other types of materials is on Facebook. In my county there must be 20 or more different Facebook groups set up for members of our community to sell items to one another. It is similar to a garage sale only everything is managed online. The seller posts a photo of something he or she wishes to sell along with a price and folks respond if they are interested in buying it by leaving a comment. Then arrangements are made from there between the buyer and the seller. As a general rule, in a community site like this one, you have to know someone else in the community to get added to the group. The groups are secret or closed so that folks can monitor who joins the group with the goal of keeping it only open to the members of that particular community. There are teacher markets where teachers sell items to each other for a fraction of the original cost and lots of parents also join in and sell items. Most items are in very good condition. Everything from lesson plan books, children’s books, art easels, children’s chairs and tables, blocks, games, puzzles, bulletin board pieces, and more are sold in these groups so I check them often…
One of my favorite finds on the Community Market was this telephone booth that I gave a whopping $12 for. Other virtual garage sale type spots include Ebay or Craigslist although I honestly haven’t ever shopped either one of those but still, they might be worth checking out. Just remember that with any virtual buying and selling, you need to be smart about it, use good judgement, and stay safe…
I stop by our local Goodwill store every so often with a list of things I am collecting or looking for. Last year, I was on a mission to purchase light weight tin pots and pans for my classroom. Other finds I have picked up at Goodwill include unusual pieces of furniture, children’s books, wooden trays, old telephones, and old records…
My students enjoy listening to the records I pick up from Goodwill. Some of the records are children’s stories or songs while others are classical music or musicals…
I recently had a teacher ask me if it was “okay” to ask parents to donate items to preschool. In my mind, asking parents to help donate items to preschool is certainly okay but you do want to keep in mind the following….
- Keep the process of donating items fun for parents rather than something they feel pressured or obligated to do.
- Be clear about what kinds of things you are looking for. Do you need shoe box lids, bottle caps, egg cartons, paper towel tubes, or other? Then put a general note up or send out an email letting parents know what you are collecting, what you plan to do with your collection (if you know), how many you are looking for or how long you plan to collect the requested items. The more you explain what you need and why you need it, the better parents will be at saving and donating the right type of things for your class.
- Be clear about what you can or cannot accept as parents may truly not know the difference. For example, if you tell the parents you are looking for toy donations you may get lots of toys like stuffed animals, battery operated toys without the batteries, and so on. You don’t want to become the Goodwill drop off center so be clear about what you can or can’t use in your classroom.
- If you are going to accept donations then find a way to actually use them and then let parents know about it so they will see that you appreciate their donations and are putting them to good use.
Finally, be open to parents who come up with fun ideas and would like to donate the items needed for their idea. Last year, one of my parents donated an amazing butterfly kit which I wrote about here. I adapted my “lesson plans” so that the kids and I could enjoy the process of observing the life cycle of a butterfly. I have had other parents donate some pretty amazing supplies for both indoor and outdoor explorations but my parents are very good about making sure what they donate will really be a good fit for our classroom and teaching philosophy…
One way to get enough funds together for a specific supply or project in your classroom is to set up a classroom kick-starter project. Want to learn more about the power of crowd funding or Kickstarting a classroom project campaign? Check out DonorsChoose.Org!
DIY for the Classroom
One of my favorite ways to add resources to the classroom is through Do It Yourself projects(DIY). Pinterest is FULL Of DIY projects you can use for the classroom!
Repurposing for the Classroom
I also love repurposing/upcycling resources the children and I have saved throughout the school year to use for art or games or math or science…
And last but certainly not least is to tap into your local community resources. Resources that have been donated to me include pizza boxes from Pizza King, Walgreens and Hallmark have saved envelopes and paper tubes for me. And I love going down to our local recycle collection center to find shoe boxes, cardboard boxes, and other recycled goodies like these large cardboard spools!
Bam Radio Show
Now don’t forget to hop over and listen to the Bam Radio Show for more tips on this topic!! Just click here to listen on the Bam Radio Educator’s Channel or here to listen on ITunes!
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