It’s the beginning of the school year, the budget is tight and you are on a mission to add engaging materials to your classroom. Where do you start and how do you accomplish this without going over budget?
First, realize that businesses don’t mind donating to teachers. I’m not sure if it’s sympathy for our profession or just a chance to get rid of things they consider “junk.” As teachers, our creativity finds uses for everything in all sorts of ways; therefore, no business is off limits.
Second, formulate a plan. Decide what you need and want and then locate the best places to find these items for free or as cheap as possible. If your Block Interest Area is in need, consider places like Lowes, Home Depot, construction sites, and landscape businesses. Home Depot and Lowes offer free wood or laminate floor samplings, wasted lumber, wooden paint sticks, and sometimes even plants. Share that you are a teacher and they may even allow you to go over the “four floor samplings per visit” limit, and offer you damaged bags of sand for a huge discount or possibly even free!
I once attended a workshop where a group of teachers went to a construction site, identified themselves as such, and asked for any items not being used. They came back with a few hardhats, a keyboard, and scrap building supplies. Nurseries are another great spot to check for free materials for Blocks, Science and Outdoor areas. They may offer free or discounted leftover landscape materials such as rocks and soil from a current display. I have purchased plants and small garden tools for up to 50% off and every once in a while even free. Be flexible with your plan and remember materials can be used in more than one area.
Finally, don’t limit yourself to just certain places. Think about other Interests areas or centers and what businesses could possibly donate materials for them. Fast food restaurants may give you a few of their paper food containers. Cellphone stores may give you display phones and accessories they are no longer using. Remember, you don’t need a classroom set; 2 or 3 items are sufficient. Yard sales are always a “gold mine” for materials. So let the search begin with an open, creative mind, and have fun on the way!