Providing fun and engaging classroom activities for students is a top priority for every Teacher and being able to do this on a budget can be a challenge. If you're looking to save money on supplies for your classroom activities, try the following strategies.
Design Classroom Activities That Use Common Household Items
Designing classroom activities that use common household items is a great inexpensive way to involve families in planning for classroom activities and provide high interest projects for students. The kitchen is filled with inexpensive items that can be used in the classroom for projects. Paper plates can be turned into model solar systems with scissors, string, and crayons. Borax mixed with Elmer's Glue makes a really cool material students love to play with called Goo. Goo is really a polymer or material made of long chains of molecules in case you didn't know! Another great project I do every year with my students is The Spaghetti Tower Project where groups of students design, build, and test a three story building constructed out of nothing more than spaghetti and marshmallows. The students come up with some fabulous designs and learn a great deal about which building designs stand up to best to the forces of an earthquake.
Ask Local Businesses to Donate
Many businesses are eager to provide support for their local schools and all you need to do is ask. From guest speakers to donated project supplies, businesses are more likely to help you if you have a well thought out project and clear learning objectives. I approached my local grocery store Manager about a donation of styrofoam deli packaging trays for use in a Science project where my students were studying the effect of airplane wing designs on flight time. Because I came prepared with a signed letter from the school Principal with our 501C tax id number, and I was able to clearly articulate how my students would benefit from the donation, I was successful in obtaining the supplies I needed. The fact that I offered to provide publicity in the form of a mention in the school newsletter and provide him with a copy sealed the deal.
Big box home improvement stores are an excellent source for donations as well. I have received several donations over the years from Home Depot for items such as plants for Earth Day celebrations and irrigation equipment for a schoolyard habitat. Due to declining budgets, I strongly advise approaching these potential donors early in the year before they reach their limit on donations.
Write a Grant
Writing a grant can be a challenge especially if it is for a large grant so I focus on the smaller grants that have a faster turn around and require less paperwork. If you recruit other people to help write the grant and to be a part of the grant project your chances of success will rise dramatically. Most grants require that as many students as possible be served by the grant so involving other Teacher's will help ensure you meet that important requirement. There are many resources online that provide grant writing tips that can be of great help to those writing a first grant. Several years ago I wrote a grant for a weather station and involved the Math Department along with the Science Department in the project. By designing a math curriculum that used data from the weather station and including that in our grant application, we were able to impact more students. Check first with your school's PTA or school district foundation for easy sources of grants before searching online.
Pick Up Bargains at Yard Sales
Yard sales are a great source of supplies for classroom projects and labs. You'd be surprised what you can find at yard sales that you can use in the classroom and you can't beat the price.