July 20, 2016

STEM Challenge Materials: Get 'em FREE or Get 'em CHEAP!

It's time to talk -- or sing -- materials! Watch the video embedded below, and that will make a whole lot more sense! However, if you prefer to read, you'll find the video transcribed at the end of this post.

(I cannot wait until I get 100 subscribers so I can set custom thumbnails.  The four choices YouTube is giving me are killing me. If your'e enjoying the videos, please, please subscribe!)

As is the (new) usual, the video contains the all the details, with the written summary found below.

The Best Materials are Free

If you plan ahead, you can ask parents to donate materials for your challenges. Although specific materials vary by challenge, there are some basics you'll use quite a bit.

You can find an editable parent-request-for-materials letter in the freebie below:

Click here for FREEBIE!

Amazon.com Wish List

A great way to make it easy for parents to help you is to create an Amazon Wish List for your class. I've linked an example here. You can click through it and basically copy onto your own wish list anything you like.  (If you've never created a public wish list before, the video walks you through it.)

A Few of My Favorite Things

I've linked some of my favorite supplies that can be found on Amazon below. 
Full disclosure, I am an Amazon associate which means I can receive small referral payments for items I recommend if they're purchased through my referral links, so if that rubs you the wrong way, we can still be friends; just don't purchase through these links :)  

Comparison Shopping

I did a quick comparison of some of my STEM basics between the two places I shop most often: Dollar Tree and Amazon.com. Obviously, Amazon can't be beat for convenience, but it can be beat for cost!

As always, reach out in the comments or by email if there's a specific question or topic you'd like me to address. :)


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Video Transcription

Bendy pipe cleaners and boxes of cardboard, straws, clothespins, brass brads and things I can afford. Parent donations of foil, tape and strings, these are a few of my favorite things. 

Well either I've lost my mind or we're talking about materials today. Let's get started. All right, we're talking about materials. We're gonna talk about what to get and where to get it, so let's start with a question, fill in the blank. The best materials are ... if you said malleable, you've been watching the videos, but it's a trick. The best materials are free materials. If you plan enough in advance, you can ask parents for donations and I will put in the description below a link to my parent letter and it is editable. Another thing you can do is set up an Amazon Wish List for your classroom. I will show you how to do that.

You're gonna go to Amazon.com and you're gonna sign in. If you don't have an account, you can start here. I'm gonna show you my example first. I've already made one sample list. You can see I've added some basics for STEM here. Just a quick note, the Crayola model o magic is one of my favorites, but I never buy it for myself, that's a luxury first class, one percentage kind of item. But if somebody wants to buy it for me, I'm very happy to have it. Let's just go ahead and say you've been doing your search on Amazon and you found something you want. You look over here to the right, you can add to list.

Any list that you already have will be there and if this is a new list, well you just create a new list. This will be a wish list. We'll call this STEM sample. Set it to public and create your list and let's continue shopping. I just want to add one more thing to it. So now when I got to add something that I find, when I click add to list, you'll see my STEM sample list is here. I'll say continue shopping, but I just want to show you how to get to your list. Up here, in the menu bar you'll see you can drop down and go to your STEM sample list. For each item, you can update your comments, your quantity and your priority. Let's say I want two of these and I'm going to leave it as medium priority. Let's go ahead and update this one as highest, and let's say I want four of those. Add a little comment there. Now you'll see ... oh now you can see I have a typo there. I will fix that later. 

One thing to know is that if parents do buy from Amazon from your wish list, these quantities will update. You can always go in and change them as well if somebody just buys you one or you decide you don't need them anymore; you can change it. You can even delete items off. When you're ready to share with your parents, go ahead and just come right up here. You're gonna click share and you're gonna get a link that you can put on your class website or put in your class newsletter. You can also send emails directly out to parents this way.

The materials you need are obviously gonna vary based on the challenge, but there are some basics that you want to have around. Pipe cleaners, foil, masking tape, these things did not make it into the song by chance. You want to make sure that you have those things on hand in bulk. You'll use them a lot. You're also going to become a clean trash hoarder. I will show you a couple of examples of some things that I've been hoarding lately. I just started collecting these little fruit baskets. Every time I go to a hotel, I've been getting shower caps and water bottle lids, these are just a few of my clean trash hoards. I don't know where it's going to make it into a challenge yet, but the purpose will reveal itself I'm certain.

Something else you want to think about is to throw in something weird just for kicks. Those shower caps, I might put them into a challenge I think has no business having shower caps as a material just to see what the kids do with it, because it's often ingenious and surprising. I try not to limit what they can do based on what I can imagine. In the event you do not have time to plan ahead and solicit parent donations or you did and plan ahead and do that but the parents did not respond in kind, you'll need to get your own. 

The stores I like to go to most are dollar stores. For me, Dollar Tree is my favorite. I get something things off Amazon and the other stuff usually comes from a Target, a hardware store like Home Depot or even grocery stores. Where's the best place to get your materials? Depends on the material. I did a little bit of comparison shopping just recently, so let me show you what I found out.

So I did do a little comparison shopping between Dollar Tree and Amazon, because those are the two places I get most of my items from. I did not include here anything with a teacher discount. I do believe Dollar Tree gives, it's a small discount, but to current classroom teachers. You might want to look into that if you are local. You'll see that a lot of times, Dollar Tree wins the battle price wise, but Amazon is often very close in price and sometimes the convenience or the quality just beats it out.

I will link in the description below my blog which will bring you to the parent letter and the chart for comparison shopping. I have some freebies and all that on there as well, so just check that out. We started with a song, I'll end with a chorus, my apologies I am no songstress.

Copier's jammed, too much testing, things that make me mad. I'll simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad. See you next week. Be sure to subscribe, next week we're gonna start back to school challenges and I think you're going to really like them.

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