Getting Creative Saves Money!

As most people know, teaching is a hardworking but rewarding profession that doesn’t often have a lot of money associated with it. In Ohio, the average salary of a high school chemistry teacher is a around $43,938. When taking this into account, I found it surprising that in 2020-2021, the average teacher spends an average of $750 on school supplies during each school year! Even so, 30% of those teachers surveyed spend $1,000 or more on school supplies in a school year. In a career that may have salaries on the lower end of spectrum, teachers still put a lot of their own money into their classroom in order for their students to have the materials and resources they need to succeed.

Why is classroom spending on the rise?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, school were sent online, so teachers were left to educate from behind a screen, a task nobody really had faced before. Teachers quickly realized that students had few to no supplies at home when distance learning began, specifically about 55% of students. According to the same survey, 65% of teachers said students were less likely to participate during distance learning because they did not have what they needed. The pandemic limited student access to supplies, classroom materials, and lesson plans had to account for these setbacks. When school supply budgets aren’t sufficient, teachers did what they had to do to support their students — even if it meant spending money out of their own pockets.

But, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are still ways (even in a global pandemic) to ENGAGE your kids and NOT break the bank!

Get on their level!

  1. Teacher TikToks – TikTok is one of middle school and high schoolers favorite form of social media these days, but does have a lot of educational content available on it! Start class with a fun TikTok, ask for student TikTok submissions that they find related to the science subject or concept, provide them with teacher TikToks you like, and let it lead to a discussion about the science! A fun way to take it a step further would be to create your own TikToks, which would engage your kids even outside the classroom! Check out this teacher who went viral on TikTok!
  2. YouTube as a fun, supplemental resource – YouTube has tons of educational resources, both for teachers and students to use, for instructional purposes and for engaging purposes! By using a variety of multimedia in the classroom, students can learn about science in different, unique ways! By starting class with a YouTube video, maybe one students may already know about or have seen, they will start to develop more interest in seeing science around them!
  3. Incorporate pop culture & TV references – Chemistry, biology, and physics show up in our television, shows, and movies more often than you may realize. By introducing the ways science concepts are presented in media, students can relate chemistry to their lives and be able to start critiquing the media around them. You can do this by using good and bad examples of chemistry in Netflix shows, and even have students find examples of science concepts in the media themselves!
Use fun experiments like this one to explain the different types of reactions!
This video would be a fun way to introduce the concept of the mole in class!
This is always a fun reaction students love to see!

Remote Learning Essentials

  1. Virtual PhET Simulations – PhET simulations are free physics, chemistry, math, earth science, and biology simulations that teacher can use for students to explore concepts through manipulating virtual, interactive simulations. This resource is incredible for remote learning or remote lab instruction, and the website, linked here, includes many supplemental teaching resources for teachers too. You could start off a lesson with using a PhET and gauge students prior knowledge in an interactive way!
  2. Online tools such as Padlet, Flipgrid & Mentimeter – These technology resources provide fun, engaging ways for students to interact virtually with their peers and with you as the teacher, through digital notification boards (Padlet), online discussion platforms (Flipgrid), and interactive, Kahoot-like presentations (Mentimeter). While these can be used throughout courses and often have start-up or monthly costs, these online resources are great to get students thinking!
Here’s an example of the pH Scale PhET simulation, where you can explore the pH of a variety of different liquids!

Get them thinking!

  1. Sudoku & Crossword puzzles
  2. Daily Wordle game
  3. Brain Busters & mystery scenarios

Sometimes, starting off an early morning class with a fun, educational game is a great and simple way to get students’ brains going. By using sudoku and crosswords and Wordle, students problem solve by using math skills and vocabulary skills to solve a fun puzzle. Brain busters, mystery scenarios, or random brain teasers don’t even have to be related to chemistry or the subject, but can instill in learners a desire to ask questions, generate ideas, think creatively, and think outside of the box. Starting class in this way could be a new way to engage students that normally aren’t interested in school!

Let’s Talk $$$ – Where to go for what you need!

  • Donors Choose – This nonprofit empowers public school teachers from across the country to request much needed materials. Online, anyone can help support specific classrooms, urgent projects, which combats racial and socioeconomic inequity in school funding. Their mission is so important and it is a space for any public school teacher!
  • Facebook Marketplace & FB Groups – FB Marketplace is a great way to buy used, local furniture, materials, supplies, or resources for your classroom. Items are normally cheap and can be delivered or picked up locally. Also, join free neighborhood share groups in your town to find free or very cheap supplies, too! Your community would be able to support your classroom in this way!
  • Public Libraries – Libraries will often have book sales and teachers will often get first dibs to the books they are getting rid of, for FREE! Contact your local library or librarian for help supplying your classroom library. Incorporating reading into the classroom in all subjects is so important for students!
  • Thrift Stores & Garage Sales – Check out your local Goodwill, thrift store, garage sales or consignment store to find used materials you need for cheap. These stores can be great for finding books, decor, utensils, and more, and are especially useful when you need materials that will be used once or infrequently.
  • Donations from retiring teachers – If you have connections with retiring teachers, ask them if they’d be willing to donate lesson planning materials, books, textbooks, decorations, or games that could be reused and loved in your classroom. This is a great way to pay it forward and support newer teachers who are starting out.
  • Use at home science experiment materials – some experiments can be done at home, or only require basic materials you could find in your kitchen or pantry! By researching these kinds of experiments, you may not have to buy anything extra at all! Get creative!

Hopefully these ideas and free resources can be useful for you and your classroom! Don’t be intimated by the daunting statistics, but be encouraged because there are plenty of creative ways to save money on materials, be cost-effective, and implement reusing resources to keep classroom costs down! I believe in you, and be sure to share your finding and deals too!

Thanks for reading! Until next time, Miss Creeden 🙂


  1. Hey McKenna!
    Thanks for your feedback and question! I think that for less engaged students, I would start off the semester or new quarter with surveying the students, asking them about what they enjoy outside of school, such as their preferred types of social media, so that I can cater to their current interests. By knowing my students and investing in having a relationship with them, I could have specific kids in mind when I plan lessons and engaging activities.

  2. Hey Ellie!
    Thanks for your comment, I agree that for bigger projects that do cost money, it may be a good idea to raise the support online. Yes, on the website, projects can be sorted by schools near you, projects that have matching donation programs, and ones that are in high-need schools, which was helpful for navigating. I found this one post about a 5th year, 5th grade science teacher at Marshall Elementary in Oxford that I would want to support because she is asking for materials for her kids to build wind and solar powered electric cars! It is such a cool project that incorporates STEM, so I thought I would want to support this!

  3. Hi Rachel! I really loved your blog post! I really liked that you included the reasons for why classroom spending is on the rise toward the beginning of your post! I also really loved the colors and the graphics you included in your blog. I think it really makes it engaging and interesting to read. I think that all of the resources you shared are great places for teachers to find a budget friendly, yet engaging activity for their classroom. Some students, however, are harder to reach and harder to impress when it comes to engagement. How do you plan to cater to those students’ needs and get them engaged in the classroom as well?

  4. Rachel,

    I loved that you suggested places to get help raising money on top of free resources. Sadly not everything can be done for free, and the resources you suggested can be really helpful in raising money for bigger projects or things that will help students. Donors Choose especially is a great place to go. Did you see any projects up on donors choose that you think are worth supporting?

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