Monday, September 6, 2010

10 Ways to Get Free Money & Classroom Supplies

Every year teachers spend a lot of money out of their own pockets for classroom supplies and materials for the betterment of their students. The IRS allows you to deduct some of those expenditures, but that doesn't always cover your out-of-pocket expenses. To help you avoid having to spend too much out of your pocket this year, I've compiled a list of ten ways you can try to find free money and supplies for your classroom.

As they have for the last few years, Target is again awarding 5,000 $700 grants for school field trips. Applications for the grants are due by September 30, 2010. You can find all of the grant details and applications here. On the grant application page you can find a Field Trip Idea Generator. To find an idea, enter your state, city, and subject area. The Field Trip Idea Generator will give you ideas based on what past grant recipients in your area have done with the grant money.

Goldstar Registry is a free service for teachers to use to get school supplies. The idea behind Goldstar Registry is the same as bridal registry services. Teachers visit the Goldstar website and register for classroom materials that they would like to receive. Then if a parent or grandparent asks if you would like anything for your classroom, you can have them look at your online registry.

Giving Getting is a whose goal is to people exchange free material gifts. The process for using Giving Getting seems straight-forward. If you're in need of something, register and request it. Giving Getting will then try to match you with a donor that has that item to give.

Grant Gopher is a service that helps registered users find grants for just about any non-profit organization. The grant search engine is continuously updated to include new grant opportunities and remove expired grant opportunities. There is a free section of Grant Gopher and two "premium" subscription services offered by Grant Gopher. The free service offers access to the search engine, weekly newsletter about grant opportunities, and access to common application forms.

Donors Choose is an exciting program for teachers. Donors Choose is a non-profit organization with a mission of helping under-funded schools. Donors Choose uses the term "citizen philanthropy" to describe its program. Donors Choose essentially solicits funding from private citizens (and some corporations) which get to choose the projects they wish to fund. Donors can donate as much as they like to one or more projects. Donors Choose provides potential donors with information about the projects that need funding and the financial situation of the schools submitting requests. (Donations made through Donors Choose are tax deductible, but as always, check with your tax professional).

Classwish is a service through which teachers can find people willing to help purchase supplies for their classrooms. Classwish operates in a very similar manner to Donors Choose. On Classwish, teachers can create a wish list of supplies that they need for classrooms that aren't provided in their school budgets. People looking to help teachers can purchase products on a teacher's list and receive a tax deduction for their purchase.

iLoveSchools is a free service that helps teachers get supplies for their classrooms. iLoveSchools operates in a manner similar to that of Donors Choose and Class Wish. To get classroom supplies teachers register on iLove Schools and create a list of items that they would like to have for their classrooms. Donors then visit iLove School to choose a classroom to which they would like to donate supplies. A donor can contribute money toward purchasing the items a teacher has listed or a donor can contribute the actual items.

If you love free stuff as much as I love free stuff, check out Go To Freebie. On Go To Freebie you can find free samples of everything from bath and beauty supplies to toys and school supplies. Go To Freebie has forums and feedback to share experiences and tips about the freebies.

Ask your local business owners. If you have a classroom project that requires special supplies that your school cannot provide, it never hurts to ask local businesses for free or reduced price items for your project. This is especially true if the project is something that will be displayed publicly on an open-house night and you can display a thank-you sign on that night.

Craigslist has a "free" section where people list items they're looking to give away. Browse through the free section on Craigslist page for your area. You also might want to consider posting the items you're looking for.

King Tut's Family Tree - An Interactive Display

The cover story for this month's issue of National Geographic is titled King Tut's Family Secrets. The article explains how scientists have used DNA to construct King Tut's family tree. To complement the article, National Geographic has created a simple interactive display of King Tut's family tree. You can view his entire family tree or isolate the display to show the lineage of just one parent.

National Geographic has some videos that might also be of interest to people teaching lessons about King Tut or Ancient Egypt in general.
King Tut's Tomb, embedded below, is a short video overview of how archeologists and scientists examine evidence to determine how King Tut died.

Egypt: Secrets of the Pharaohs is a full-length National Geographic documentary chronicling how the pyramids were built and how the pharaohs were mummified.
Watch more free documentaries

Egypt: Quest for Eternity is a National Geographic production that you can find on Snag Learning. The documentary explores the temples and tombs of Egypt's past kings and queens. Check out Egypt: Quest for Eternity on Snag Learning to find a list of discussion questions related to the film.
Watch more free documentaries

Finally, National Geographic Xpeditions has a couple of lesson plans related to King Tut. Tut Technology is a lesson plan designed to help high school students to learn how new technology is helping scientists clarify the details of King Tut's life and death. King Tut's Treasures is a lesson plan designed to help elementary school students understand how artifacts reveal information about a people's culture.

Video - What Happens to Plastic Bags?

The Majestic Plastic Bag is a mockumentary video produced by Heal the Bay. The video chronicles the journey of a plastic shopping bag from a store, through a park, and to the ocean. Watch the video below.

Applications for Education
The video is intended to raise awareness of the impact of plastic shopping bags on the environment. Perhaps after watching this video in your classroom you could challenge students to think of alternatives to plastic bags or ask them to develop ideas for reusing and recycling plastic bags. You could also have students further study the impact of plastic bags on the environment. To demonstrate the information they find, have them create infographics about the environmental impact of plastic shopping bags. Check out Teaching With Infographics for resources on using infographics in your classroom.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:

How to Use C-Span's Video Library in Your Classroom

C-Span Classroom has created some new resources and updated some old resources for teachers for the 2010/2011 school year. C-Span's video library includes a section called Constitution Clips. Constitution Clips is comprised of videos of members of Congress and Presidents giving speeches that relate to sections of the US Constitution. For each section of the Constitution there is a selection of videos ready for you to use in your classroom. The videos can be embedded into your class blog or website.

To provide you with ideas for using C-Span resources in your classroom, C-Span has a new series of five tutorial videos. The tutorials feature C-Span's 2010 Teacher Fellows explaining and demonstrating how they use C-Span resources in their classrooms. In the video below you can watch 2010 C-Span Teacher Fellow Ben Bohmfalk demonstrate how he uses C-Span video as a debate starter in his Civics course.

Finally, once again this year C-Span is giving away a six foot by three foot American presidents timeline poster. I got one last year, hung it in my classroom, and found that some of my students were really intrigued by it which led to some nice conversations about US History. The timeline includes the terms of office for each president, what he did prior to becoming president, and important events occurring while he was in office. To get your poster you just have to register with C-Span (it's free) and submit your school's mailing address. (Sorry, it's only available to people with US addresses).

Applications for Education
What I like about Constitution Clips is that they provide a modern (at least fairly modern, Reagan was out of office long before my students were born) reference for students to see that our leaders still refer to elements of the Constitution in their decision makings.

And as I mentioned above, the giant American Presidents timeline poster led to some nice conversations about US History in my classroom last year.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
WWI Video Map
The Bayeux Tapestry Animated
Smarthistory - A Multimedia Art History Book