Don’t Be Throwin’ Hunnids When You Should Be Throwin’ Ones: Engaging on a Budget

You’ll actually be throwing “nones” most of the time…

As teachers we have to buy a ton of resources to facilitate and perform aspects of our lessons. And although those expenses can be reimbursed (and can be written off for taxes), that’s often intentionally made to be so difficult and annoying! Those small $5, $10, $15 expenses can add up to be hundreds by the end of the school year – trust me on this, it sucks!

To help save money, time, and effort, here are 5 specific resources that are completely free for teachers to use to help engage students in lessons:

  1. NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) (

The National Science Teachers Association has resources for everyth

ing a science teacher might need – crazy how that works. There’s a section literally devoted to free stuff for teachers. If you’re not a member THEN WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE? Seriously though, entire lesson plans are available to either use or to pick engage/engaging portions from for almost any content area for free. And you can be sure these are high quality!

Image result for nsta

  1. PhET Simulations (

It seems like everyone knows PhET – the opensource simulation sire from the University of Colorado Coulder. It’s a website with a ton of simulations on nearly every scientific phenomena taught in schools

. Let your students play around with a phenomenon instead of just explaining it to them. My favorite is the plate tectonics simulation (I’m a little biased as an Earth Science person). With this sim you can crash continental plates together and see them form mountains, or watch the Earth’s mantle gobble up an oceanic plate under a continental one. There are dozens of simulations for every kind of science field – and they’re all freeeeeee!

  1. Teachers Pay TeachersImage result for teachers pay teachers login

Don’t put too much credence into the name – not everything on Teachers Pay Teachers costs money. However, if you have some money to blow, then the options really are endless! Here you’re getting/buying resources from other teachers directly – which means they work – and you’re helping support fellow educators! Signing up for their newsletter gets you access to even more free stuff – so do it! 

  1. SciShow (

Okay… I love SciShow a lot. I have to admit, before they separated Crash Course into another channel, they really helped me get through some parts of AP Biology in high school. But not everything is so content focused! A lot of their videos present scientific content, discoveries, and ideas in fun and engaging ways. A couple of my favorites are their videos on some of the most deadly disease and dangerous chemicals, the former of which can be used to introduce bacteria in a biology classroom! (Also Hank is the superior brother).

  1. Puzzle Prime – Scientific Thought Questions (

If you’re looking for something not something intrinsically related to content, but rather problem solving and scientific thought in general, check out Puzzle Prime. They have a section of “Brain Teasers” directly related to science and with varying difficulty levels. Throw one or two of these up at the beginning of class to get your students’ brains rolling and into science mode!

For your demonstrations, don’t get caught in the trap of thinking cheap is bad. Convection currents can be modeled in an enthralling way with only food coloring and inertia and momentum by throwing eggs into sheets (and hopefully hitting that sheet target). Don’t spend more money on resources than you did on getting your degree and licensure!


  1. I loved your blog! I definitely will sign up for the newsletter since its free for teachers pay teachers thank you for your tip! I really liked the puzzle prime resource as well! It’s convenient when you can do puzzle or brain busters that actually relate to science as well as being fun. I hope you get to throw nones! Do you think that many teachers are unaware of a lot of resources they have access to and that’s why they aren’t as engaging? Or do you think some teachers choose to ignore them?

    • Hey Margaux!

      (If we’re throwing nones, are we throwing anything?) Thanks for a generous praise! To answer your question(s), I think there are a few issues. One, with as many resources as there are, it might seem daunting to even try to find the good ones. Two, teachers might get into a rut of doing the same thing over and over and being afriad of change – why look up new things to do if you can just do what you always did? And three, I think there is, like you mentioned, a lack of awareness for some teachers out there about what the internet can offer us in terms of resources!

  2. Chris, I think your first paragraph is very important to teachers reading this blog. It’s very easy to think that paying $5-$10 dollars for things won’t make a dent, but 20 sets of those purchases sure will! I think that is a hard reality for teachers, considering just how much we want to get the “best of the best” for our students. I am super happy that you brought up NSTA! What an amazing and basically free resource! NSTA is a very credibly source for resources, and we must be very careful about credibility within the classroom. While some resources on Youtube and other websites may look good at the surface, it’s very possible that there are flaws within the content. In your opinion, how should teachers check for credibility within different sets of resources? Should they come from a credibly website, or does that not always matter? Great blog Chris!

    • Kate:

      I love all of the NSTA resources because, like you said, they’re all well-vetted and we can be pretty much sure that they’re of pretty high quality! I think that when it comes to other places it is important to be a bit hesitant. It’s always good to try everything you plan on doing yourself, before implementing it into the classroom. This way, we can iron out kinks, see how well the thing actually works, and even form our own reactions from a student perspective. Ideally, the more credible the website the better – but it never hurts to try yourself!

  3. Chris, I really enjoyed reading your blog! You give some really great resources. I’ve never heard of SciShow on YouTube before, so I’ll be sure to check it out. My question for you is, do you think demos, simulations, activities, etc. are just as engaging when they don’t include fancy expensive materials?
    I also like how you mentioned, “For your demonstrations, don’t get caught in the trap of thinking cheap is bad.” I feel like this is such a large misconception. Your convection currents example is a great one. Some teachers are so focused on getting the best materials possible to perform amazing demos, when really, they can look right in their kitchen!

    • Katie,

      I think that cheaper materials can still work out in a super engaging way. Just about everything we do in the 181/182 labs are super low budget but still work super well and really drive across concepts. It’s the same with clothing and other similar things where we automatically assume more expensive is the same as better when in reality that’s usually not the case! Especially with younger kids, it doesn’t take much to rope them in to what you’re doing. 🙂

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