Finding science lab supplies for my upper elementary students to use during science investigations overwhelmed me when I first started teaching. We had all of the basic tools but very few of the miscellaneous materials needed for most elementary science investigations. Over time, I was able to build a supply of materials for my students to use during our science labs. I’m sharing FIVE ideas for supplying your school science lab that are either free or relatively inexpensive.
1. Your junk drawer is hiding science lab supplies!
We all have a drawer, cabinet, or closet where we stash things that we don’t want to throw away but don’t have a current need for. These are the perfect places to look for supplies. Don’t forget to ask your friends, family, and coworkers as well. Most will willingly search through their junk drawers or closets for you. You may be surprised by the variety of materials that can be collected for FREE just by asking others to look through their stuff.
2. The PTA or PTO
The PTA or PTO on your campus is there to help. They run several fundraisers per year and love to spend that money in ways that directly impact student learning. You may have to talk to them in advance so they can plan spending for the next school year. Bring a detailed list that includes the items needed and options for where to buy them.
3. Ask your administration
My administrators have ALWAYS purchased the items I ask for. That being said, I always do the legwork of trying to get free materials first and then I provide them with a list of needed materials along with a general idea of why I need them. The school has a budget for classroom supplies and they are happy to spend it on specific things that you need. I’ve asked for cotton balls, paper plates, plastic cups, a box of nails, paper clips, and lots of other odds and ends items.
4. Ask for donations
At the beginning of the year or during open house, create a display for your wish list items for the science lab. Put one item per Post-it note and stick to your display. Parents can take a post-it note and then send the donated item back to school with their student. Be sure to check with your administration prior to asking parents to donate to your classroom.
You can also ask for donations from local businesses. I have received donated pizza boxes for making solar ovens, flowers for dissecting, buckets and other goods from a big hardware store and out of season paper/plastic ware from a party store. Many local businesses love to donate to schools. Some require you or your administrator to fill out paperwork but some just happily give you what you need.
5. Crowd Fund
Asking for donations is so easy when you use a crowd funding site. You can expand your reach of possible donors and request more expensive items. A person contributes to your classroom by giving money or making a purchase through a website. Some of my favorite crowd funding sites for my classroom include:
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Do you have any tips for collecting materials for your science labs? I’d love to hear them. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag me @twoteachingtaylors on Instagram.