Getting Engaged Without Going Broke

It can be tough as a teacher when you need to get your kids engaged and ready for learning, but you don’t want to break the bank on expensive equipment or materials. To help solve that problem, here are some great resources for free or very cheap.

1. YouTube Channels

Channels on YouTube like SciShow or one of my favorites Cody’s Lab can be excellent resources to get kids excited about a new topic or to introduce new ideas. The success of YouTube has meant that many educational content creators have a place to share their videos. The best part is it’s all free and easy to use in your class

2. Online organizations

Organizations like NSTA post tons of resources for new teachers to use

NSTA Freebies

Additionally, many teachers will share their resources and activities online on sites like Pinterest for others to use.

3. Brainteasers and Riddles

Brainteasers and riddles are excellent ways to get your kid’s brains going and thinking critically

Critical Thinking Activities- TeAchnology

You could use math-based problems like this

“A local hotel has 158 rooms. Due to a scouting event, the entire hotel booked except for two rooms. If the girl scouts are using twice as many rooms as the boy scouts, how many rooms are the boy scouts using?”

Or logic puzzles like this

“An Arab sheik tells his two sons to race their camels to a distant city to see who will inherit his fortune. The one whose camel is slower will win. The brothers, after wandering aimlessly for days, ask a wise man for advice. After hearing the advice they jump on the camels and race as fast as they can to the city. What does the wise man say?

Getting those kids thinking critically will help get them engaged and the start of class and give them something that challenges them to think

4. Simple Demonstrations

There are a TON of great demos out there that don’t require much at all in the way of materials

This one only requires a film canister, an Alka-seltzer and some water!

Film Canister Rocket

Or you can perform this boat demo using dish soap and some foam

Soap Powered Boat

5. Simulations

Websites like Phet Simulations from University of Colorado Boulder have online simulations and animations to help students get a visual representation of concepts as well  as demonstrating the various factors influencing the system. For example, this is a simulation by Phet that displays the mechanics of Coulomb’s Law

Here’s the real lesson,


  1. Peter,
    I really like the idea of watching Youtube channels! I think having the students follow particular channels throughout the year will help students get used to learning from that particular person or group of people. I also like that because it’s all free, any student can access the videos after school to continue their learning. I also really appreciated you including the simulations! I always forget things like that exist until a teacher introduces it to class, which has been very few times in my entire education career. I think simulations really help students visualize certain processes, laws, or ideas which can benefit many students! Great job!

    • Claire, Thanks! I have learned so much from Youtube in my own time that I think its a fantastic resource for the classroom. The simulations do a great job with students who have difficulty visualizing scientific processes. Thanks for your feedback!

  2. Peter,
    These are great suggestions! I think the simulation is especially useful. As for the entire class, maybe they won’t love it, but I personally love playing around with tools like this! Maybe it’s just my style of learning. I remember using several kinds of these when learning astronomy, and there are many out there for chemistry and other sciences!

    • Will, Im glad you enjoyed it! Phet is great for all sorts of simulations. I remember using it for things like gas laws when I was in high school. There are so many options that I cant imagine it would be hard to find one to get any student engaged.

  3. Hello Peter!
    Great post! I like the videos that you posted from Cody’s lab and SciShow. They were really engaging. I did not know about these videos. I mostly like Crash course, which are very similar to what you posted. Hank is awesome! I like your idea about the film canisters and the alka seltzer tablets. I also think your idea about the boat is awesome. My guess on how the boat works is that the dishsoap repells the foam boat and allows it to move through the water. Is that correct? These experiments really show a great deal of chemistry and are cheap! Live demos in the class really engage students. I also look at pinterest, like you mentioned, as well as NSTA. I probably should read those journals that NSTA sends out. I usually do not have time to do that. I like your ideas. It seems like you researched this well. Very interesting! I would like to use some of these in my student teaching!

    Delaina 🙂

    • Thanks Delaina! That is exactly how the boat is meant to work. I think those simple demos provide enough excitement that they’d work well for the engage portion of a lesson. The NSTA journals almost always have something helpful or interesting, you really should try reading them sometime. Thanks for the feedback!

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