7 ways to find products for your classroom projects
You may not find Resourcefulness 101 in any college curriculum, but if you're a teacher, you've probably earned a Ph.D. in this fine art.
Having reliable resources for classroom supplies at reasonable prices is critical, and exploring all of your options will help you find the best deals – and quality – for your budget.
Here are seven strategies for shopping for classroom supplies.
1. Think thrifty.
Goodwill and Salvation Army are great places to find everything from children's books to seasonal items, with an ever-changing selection. "Most Goodwill stores introduce more than 2,000 new items onto the sales floor each day," according to Goodwill’s website. If you'd rather shop from home, check out ShopGoodwill.com, Goodwill's online auction site, which features approximately 93,000 items at any given time.
The online marketplace Hoot of Loot is another great source for thrifty finds, offering teaching supplies and teacher-made materials, as well as overstock inventory and clearance items from various retailers. Listing items on the site is free.
2. Go "garage saling."
Forget driving through your neighborhood to find garage sale treasures. Virtual community garage sales such as VarageSale and The Online Yard Sale have search engines to help you zero in on your desired items, from preowned books to computers.
You can also find community sales on Facebook's Community Pages. To participate, you'll just need a member of your Community Page to invite you to the page.
3. Join the club.
Book-ordering clubs such as Scholastic Reading Club are like candy stores for readers. Many advertise discounted teaching resources and programs in their monthly mailers. Plus, the more books you – and your students – order, the more points you'll accumulate to save on future book purchases.
4. Tap into your support networks.
Your students' parents can be one of the best resources for project supplies, says Susann Davis, a middle school math teacher in Fremont, Ohio.
"If you need something for an upcoming project, just send home a note," Davis says. "It's surprising how many parents want to help – but don't have the time – so sending in supplies is an easy way for them to feel connected to the education of their child."
Fellow teachers are often happy to pass along tips and resources that work for them, as well. "For printables, I'm always on teacherspayteachers.com," says Amanda Mansour, a teacher and technology coach. Teachers can visit the site to share, sell and buy original educational resources. "I love that the resources are created by people in the classroom and, for the most part, are tried and true. Oftentimes, there are tons of freebies to be found here as well."
Mansour also recommends following other teachers on Instagram and/or LinkedIn for ideas and networking. "You never know when you may need a hand or find something new and innovative that you haven't tried," she says.
5. Shop specialty retailers.
There is a plethora of online retailers catering to teachers, including:
These retailers have easy-to-navigate websites and offer digital catalogs to help you find exactly what you need, and shipping is free when you meet minimum order requirements.
Amazon.com business account holders – including schools and their designated employees – can also purchase classroom supplies at reduced prices.
6. Give DIY a try.
Teachers enjoy show-and-tell as well. The ultimate inspiration generator, Pinterest, is packed with DIY projects you can use for your classroom, says Deborah Stewart, a veteran educator, private preschool owner and author of the blog Teach Preschool. The site also includes links to teacher blogs with project ideas and supply lists.
7. Use a wholesale supplier.
Wholesalers such as Darice have thousands of creative products available for purchase online or over the phone. 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 and closeouts, so click around before purchasing.
Keep in mind that wholesalers will require your school’s tax ID number to place orders.
Key Tips and Takeaways
- Cast a wide net when looking for reasonably priced educational supplies. Virtual garage sales, book-ordering clubs, specialty retailers and online wholesalers are all potential resources.
- Reach out to parents and fellow teachers to find products faster and stretch your supply budget further.
- Buying items in bulk for projects can greatly reduce your per-item costs – and the frequency of your orders.