I will start teaching in an elementary school this year. When I looked in what will be my future my classroom, but I didn’t see supplies or equipment for teaching science. What can I do now? – —G., Michigan
Describe the situation to your principal before you panic. There may be a central storeroom or she may ask other teachers to share materials. She may also guide you through the purchasing process.
Fortunately, science teaching at the elementary level does not necessarily require a lot of expensive equipment. I’ve attended many NSTA conference sessions in which we investigated science concepts with marbles, balloons, straws, paper clips, plastic cups, hand lenses, rubber bands, craft sticks, blocks, and small plastic cars.
Browse through the archives of Science & Children, and you’ll see students investigating plant growth, examining rock samples or insects, studying mechanics and motion, or collecting weather data with simple, inexpensive materials. (However without safety equipment such as goggles, there may be activities that you cannot do until you get them.) Check the science curriculum for activities that your students will do and make a list of materials.
As a last resort you may have to purchase things yourself, as many teachers do. Discount stores have low-cost items that can be repurposed for science. Take a prioritized wish list everywhere you go—you’ll never know what you’ll find at a flea market or yard sale. And save the receipts—the principal may have discretionary funds to reimburse your purchases.
In an ideal world, all schools would be fully funded and teachers and students would be provided with the materials they need. Until that happens, many teachers will continue to be generous toward their students and provide supplies. Welcome to the profession!
(For more science-on-a-shoestring ideas, refer to The Frugal Science Teacher, PreK-5 from NSTA Press.)