As any teacher can tell you, there never seems to be enough money for all the school supplies needed to engage a classroom full of students. Teachers are spending hundreds and even thousands of dollars a year out of pocket on school supplies. Luckily, there are a number of places where teachers can get free (or very low cost) school supplies, with just a little work.
Where Can Teachers Get Free Teaching Supplies?
We’ve compiled a list of fifteen ways teachers can get free or close to free school supplies, lesson plans, and classroom materials. Some of these resources may be closer to home than you think! Others may require you to reach out to national organizations and step out of your comfort zone a little bit.
The National Association For the Exchange of Industrial Resources Inc (NAEIR) offers a program where teachers can purchase classroom supplies at a fraction of their original cost, with free shipping. NAEIR includes everything from coloring books to art supplies, pencils and pens. Teachers need to sign up for the program and provide proof of employment at a school.
2) Adopt a Classroom
Teachers can use a fundraising platform such as Adopt a Classroom to raise money for classroom supplies. Adopt a Classroom connects donors with teachers looking for grants to purchase books, supplies, and even field trips.
DonorsChoose is another fundraising platform just for teachers. Teachers post classroom project requests and community members choose which projects they’d like to help fund. Donors can donate as little as $1 to a project. Once the project is completely funded, DonorsChoose purchases all of the requested items and ships them directly to the school. Donors receive a personalized letter from the classroom as well as an itemized account of how each dollar was spent. DonorsChoose is a favorite amongst teachers for receiving free classroom supplies, and donors like that they can see where their money is going.
4) Staples Classroom Rewards
Teachers and parents alike can sign up for the Staples Classroom Rewards program. Teachers first need to create a Staples Rewards account on the Staples website. Staples automatically gives teachers $5 in rewards just for signing up. Then, teachers provide parents with their account information. When parents shop at Staples, then can log their receipts on the teacher’s rewards website, or give their receipt directly to the teacher. Teachers receive up to 5% of the total purchases made in store or up to 2% online. Teachers can receive up to $250 in reward money per quarter to put toward purchasing school supplies at Staples.
The National Education Association (NEA) publishes a list of “10 Free Things” for educators every month. These resources include traditional activity sheets, websites, interactive encyclopedias, and lesson plans. One recent listing focused on free activities for Mother’s Day crafts.
6) Schoolhouse Supplies
If you’re lucky enough to have a free store for teachers near you, you can easily get free donations from donors just by visiting the store. In Portland, Oregon, Schoolhouse Supplies started a Free Store for Teachers, which is run by volunteers and stocked completely with donations from individuals and corporations. This nonprofit also sells complete school supply kits to parents. The proceeds from these kits support the Free Store, allowing them to keep operating. Schoolhouse Supplies reports that they have distributed over $30 million in free school supplies to date. Although the free store model doesn’t seem to have caught on in the education community just yet, free stores for the general public exist all over the United States.
7) Clear the List
The teacher-created Clear the List movement on Facebook has helped thousands of students get free supplies from donors and other educators. Teachers must first create a supply wish list on Amazon, then join one of the designated Facebook groups. There are both national and regional Facebook groups. Since the movement was created last summer, it has gone viral on the internet and even featured on morning news programs. Currently, the Clear the List movement focuses on mentorship and camaraderie between teachers. However, teachers still lend a hand by purchasing from each other’s lists.
8)Leftover Student Supplies
There’s no need to buy all new everything when you can salvage items at the end of the year. Students may leave supplies behind in their desks or lockers, which you can collect and recycle as part of your classroom supplies next year. Unless you’re required to have a class set of crayons, markers, or colored pencils, for example, keeping a giant box of art supplies with suffice. This is especially true for high school teachers who may only break out the art supplies every once in a while.
9) Join a Freecycle Group Online
Joining a freecycle group online doesn’t guarantee you’ll find what you’ll need, but it will help you keep an eye out for bigger classroom purchases. You may rarely find that someone is giving away school or art supplies, but furniture and books will likely catch your eye frequently!
10) Creative Reuse Stores
Creative Reuse stores are not free, but they offer a treasure trove of materials that would otherwise be thrown out if they hadn’t been donated. You can find school and art supplies, containers for organization, and sometimes even small pieces of furniture. Although Creative Reuse stores are meant for artists and crafters, you never know what kinds of useful supplies you might find. Sometimes, there’s even entire art kits or packs of supplies that haven’t been opened!
11) Ask Retired or Retiring Teachers
We all know that teachers don’t like to throw anything away. If you know a retired or soon-to-be retired teacher at your grade level, chances are they have bins full of teaching materials and school supplies. Most teachers are more than happy to share their bounty with new teachers.
12) Half Price Books
Half Price Books frequently donates books and media to nonprofits and educators, but you have to ask for it! All you need to do is fill out a simple form on the Half Priced Books websites and wait for a response. Someone will have to pick up the donated books at your local Half Price Books store once you’re approved.
13) Visit the Dollar Store.
Although you won’t find things for free, you’ll spend next to nothing for basic materials and decorations that you can customize for your classroom. Dollar Tree has a wide array of goodies that are perfect for classroom treats and rewards as well.
14) Try Writing Letters to Local Businesses
Most stores have at least some wiggle room for giving away free merchandise. Local businesses may be willing to donate to your school or classroom, especially if you have a connection at the store or they’re part of your community. Larger companies such as Coca-Cola and Google have donation programs as well.
Every teacher’s book supplier, Scholastic, gives bonus points based on the number of books sold to you and your students. These points also earn you secret bonus books and the ability to order from a special catalogue full of classroom supplies. The Apple Rewards Program consists of three levels: Green, Red, and Golden. Each level comes with a free trial of Scholastic Teachables and Story Monsters Inc.
Teachers will probably always dip into their own bank accounts to help their students. It’s just what we do! However, with a little creativity and grunt work, we can lessen the strain on our wallets and still get our students the materials they deserve.
Where can teachers get free teaching supplies – Conclusion
If you just ask for help, you’ll find that many people are willing to donate money and supplies. With a little creative thinking, you can easily recycle gently used materials that you find at a Creative Reuse store or a using a freecycle program. Finally, by taking advantage of already existing reward programs for teachers, you can earn money and materials for your classroom projects. These easy steps will take a little time and effort, but it’s well worth the rewards!
Be sure to also check out our list of 13 awesome teacher freebies for every teacher. If you are looking for a truly comprehensive list, be sure download our ultimate list of teacher freebies. Enter your email below and you will get immediate access.