In rural areas, finding supplies for your classroom projects starts with planning
While rural communities have plenty to offer, those things rarely include convenient access to art and craft supplies.
In 2015, more than 46 million people were living in nonmetropolitan counties – rural and small-town America – accounting for 14 percent of the nation's population, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. If you are one of them, instead of burning hours – and gas – searching for creative supplies for your classroom projects, use these tips to find and order supplies.
Plan ahead. The first step to successfully stocking your classroom is to develop a strategy for managing supplies, says former high school English teacher Elisha Stuck.
"Figure out what supplies you need to keep your classroom running well daily and spend time charting how often you need to replace or add to those supplies," says Stuck, who taught in two rural Ohio communities for 15 years. "In terms of special projects, plan ahead and know all the supplies you'll need to pull the project off."
Explore discount stores. Elementary school teacher Suzanne Yorkey, who works in a small town in southern Michigan, relies on the power of resourcefulness. "When I need certain supplies for my classroom, I shop at the dollar stores," she says.
Discount store Dollar Tree offers a diverse selection of creative supplies, from glitter shakers to jumbo erasers. Order online, and UPS will deliver to your doorstep. (Note: UPS delivery is extra.)
Organize a supply task force. Share the ordering of supplies with colleagues. Put together a small group of teachers with similar supply needs, then make a list and pool your resources. Each month – or grading period – someone will be the designated shopper. You'll save time, and buying in larger quantities gets you more materials for your money.
Partner with a wholesaler. Wholesalers such as Darice have thousands of creative products available for purchase online or over the phone. Many wholesaler sites are easy to navigate and feature digital catalogs, so you can even shop in your pajamas.
Buying educational supplies in bulk can significantly reduce your per-item costs, and you'll restock your supply closet less often. In addition to high-volume discounts, many suppliers offer savings from overstocks to closeouts, so click around before purchasing.
Wholesalers require a tax ID number before you order, so ask your principal about the requirements for using your school's tax ID number.
Use the web. Most large online retailers have equally large distribution networks and deliver to rural and remote areas.
Amazon.com offers reasonably priced creative supplies and specialty materials, and business account holders – including schools and their designated employees – can purchase art and other classroom supplies at reduced prices after creating an account.
Purchasing online from educational product retailers can also help you quickly find frequently used products. With the surge in e-commerce, Stuck says, "The difficulty is finding the time to wade through all the available resources."
The following retailers have easy-to-navigate websites and digital catalogs to help you find exactly what you need.
Shipping is free with minimum order requirements.
Ready, set, order. Teaching has many rewards – including those much-appreciated discounts. So before you buy, ask about special savings opportunities for educators.
Teaching has many rewards – including those much-appreciated discounts. So before you buy, ask about special savings opportunities for educators.
Key tips and takeaways
- Documenting which supplies you use and how often can help you plan ahead to save time and money when ordering.
- Pooling your funds with your fellow teachers can help you find products faster and stretch your supply budget further.
- Buying educational supplies in bulk can greatly reduce your per-item costs – and the frequency of your orders.