How to Get Free Classroom Supplies

Rather than reaching deeper into your own pockets, Tamar Snyder at Edutopia suggests following these tips for getting free supplies:

Don’t Buy What’s Free

Look into these strategies for obtaining free materials:

  • Recycling. Jennifer Volpe, a speech pathologist at Cobble Hill High School, in Brooklyn, New York, recommends a nonprofit recycling site called Freecycle, where people from all over the world post books, CDs, electronics, and toys they’re giving away. “The only catch is that you have to arrange to pick up the items,” says Volpe.
  • Free shopping spree. Teachers at schools in which at least 60 percent of students qualify for free lunch can take part in a monthly shopping spree at resource centers such as A Gift for Teaching, in Orlando, Florida, which gets many of its new supplies donated as surplus from businesses.
  • Try a Facebook Group. Join a Facebook Group for your community/region and post a request for the supplies you need.

Put Your Classroom Up For Adoption

Adopt-A-Classroom offers a free, safe online e-wallet account to educators who want to solicit financial support from the community. Teachers can use the money to purchase books, games, and other educational supplies through the online vendors associated with the site.

To sign up, log on to the site, register your classroom, and describe what kinds of supplies you’d like to buy. Then let parents and local businesses know that they can “adopt” your classroom for as little as $25.

Go For The Big Score

OfficeMax, in partnership with Adopt-A-Classroom, hosts the annual A Day Made Better event in October. Last year, the office superstore sent 1,300 teachers each a large box of classroom-supply staples that included scissors, glue sticks, pencils, pens, notebooks, tissues, and even a digital camera.

Teachers who’d like to be considered for A Day Made Better 2009 should have a school principal or fellow teacher nominate them at the official site.

Raise Funds For Supplies

Neeta Garg, owner of the Kumon Math and Reading Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania, wanted to help local teachers. So last summer, she organized a school-supplies drive. She sent flyers and emails to parents, and her daughter posted the event on Facebook. In addition to hundreds of donated pencils and notebooks, she collected gloves, coats, and backpacks — all of which she donated to area public schools.

And at Wilmot Elementary School, in Deerfield, Illinois, parent-teacher organization (PTO) fundraisers pay for a lot of supplies. Teachers fill out wish lists of the classroom supplies they’d like, from pencil sharpeners to cooking utensils. The PTO organizes fundraisers throughout the year, including a Market Day, when students and their families can order food from a catalog once a month.

Start A Gift Registry

Gift registries aren’t just for weddings anymore. At DonorsChoose, public school teachers can post online requests for equipment and supplies. Supply Our Schools allows teachers in low-income school districts to register for classroom supplies. Gold Star Registry is yet another site that encourages parents, PTAs, and other community-support organizations to make similar types of donations.

Seek Out A Matchmaker

San Diego businessman Jerry Hall founded to match donors with teachers seeking new or gently used equipment and supplies for their classrooms. Tens of thousands of teachers have signed up, and many have received gifts such as computers and art supplies — even a saxophone with sheet music.

Sell Advertising Space

Tom Farber, an Advanced Placement calculus teacher at San Diego’s Rancho Bernardo High School, made headlines when he asked parents and local businesses to sponsor his exams. “I knew that I had to do something,” said Farber, explaining that if he gave one quiz per chapter to each of his 167 students, he’d spend more than $500 (roughly $3 a student) on photocopies alone.

So Farber began selling a small amount of space at the bottom of each exam. He charges $10 per quiz, $20 for tests, and $30 per final. Most sponsors use motivational quotes, such as this gem: “A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants trees under which he full well knows he will never sit.”

To date, Farber has raised more than $625 — enough to cover a year’s worth of photocopies.