Saving Money as an Engaging Educator


Cheap and free resources for educators trying to creating engagement in the classroom with the 5 E's Learning Cycle.

By Jack Moore

Finding new and creative ways to engage students is a challenge in itself. Creating a lesson plan that will memorably engage students is difficult, even more so when it comes to the cost of acquiring materials for these activities. Most teachers have been in that situation, having to spend money out of pocket to create these learning experiences for their students. The National Education Association estimates that ninety percent of teachers spend at least $500 a year without reimbursement from their school district. Furthermore, with inflation on the rise, the NEA says they predict teachers will be spending over $800 every year. With teacher salaries already inequivalent to the amount of work teachers do and the education required to become a teacher, paying for large amounts of supplies without aid is unsustainable for the teachers and the students. Every student deserves the best opportunity to learn as possible, and that should not be limited by whether or not the teacher can afford supplies on their own.
Regardless, this is the reality educators face. As we persevere, here are some cheap ways to Engage your students through the 5 E’s Learning cycle.

Dollar Tree

Dollar Tree is a store where things are typically around $1, now more realistically, $1.25. Dollar is a cheap place to acquire supplies, for example, the classic density demonstration.! Of course, you do not have to use as many substances as shown in the above picture to adjust for cost. At Dollar Tree, you can find just about any of the above materials for about $1.25. This experiment can be demonstrated with two substances at minimum. Mix the material in front of your class, allow them to discuss, and engage them in critical thinking with questions and peer discussions.

PhET Online Lab Simulations
PhET is a free, online resource that provides interactive lab simulations for Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Earth Science. If your district provides laptops to students, this is an easy and cost-effective way of getting students to engage in a topic while making them create their own conclusions about the simulation’s behaviors. For example, in the Biology section, PhET offers interactive lessons on density, the action potential of neurons, and natural selection.

Edpuzzle is another great, free resource for educators to utilize. One way to engage students in the learning cycle is with clips of videos and movies. With Edpuzzle, teachers can upload videos of their own, videos from YouTube, or other teachers! Additionally, you can easily gauge students’ thoughts on the clips and their thought processes by assigning checkpoints with questions throughout the video to ensure student involvement.

Teachers Pay Teachers
Contrary to its title, Teachers Pay Teacher is a great resource for free lesson plans and experiment outlines! This site allows teachers to share their lesson plans, materials, and more with other teachers for a low price, or even free! The website breaks down the materials by subject and grade level, making it easy to find something to engage your students with. For example, you could find an article made by another teacher to give to your students to introduce them to the topic you plan to use in your learning cycle.

Youtube is a free social media platforms with a plethora of material able to engage students. For example, it is easy to search for science experiments to present to your students on these platforms. With millions of videos and posts to choose from, finding discussion-inspiring content is quick and free to initiate your engagement phase. Science-based YouTubers, such as Crash Course and Fun Science post videos of specific scientific phenomena. The digital age of sharing could save educators a few dollars.
Last but not least, Braingle. Braingle is a free website that offers science-related brain teasers and puzzles. Brain teasers are a great way to get students engaged in a topic and get them to start critically thinking. Brain teasers offer them brief puzzles that are sure to grow their curiosity as well as be applied to scientific standards!

Teaching can be expensive. Thankfully with online resources, there are ways to continue engaging your students without worrying about breaking your bank in the process. Good luck and happy money-saving!

#EDT431 #EDT432 #scienceteaching #scienceeducation #scienceteaching #strengths #studentengagement @NSTA Autonomy budget Classroom Collaboration Constructivism Cooperative Learning curiosity Diversity Equity and Inclusion drive EDT431 EDT432 education engage engagement Equity exemplary explore inquiry Making Thinking Visible Margins Mastery minorities in STEM misconceptions Motivation MTV NSTA passion Purpose resiliency science science education Science teacher scienceteaching Science teaching STEM Teachable moments teaching women in STEM


  1. Great post! I agree that finding engaging ways that are not too expensive is a difficult task, but there are many ideas out there! I liked how you tied the 5 E’s learning cycle into your intro at the end of the paragraph. This was a great transition for the rest of the blog. I liked how you included the dollar tree. I feel like this is one of the places that is overlooked when searching for supplies. YouTube is a great way to engage students! Can you think of other engaging ideas that you have not already mentioned?

  2. Hi Jack this is a great post! I really liked the different variety of resources you provided to engage students when covering a new topic. Many of these I had thought of myself and plan on incorporating in my teachings such as PHET. I noticed that a lot of these play a huge part with technology. My question for you is how would you change your engage approach if your school did not provide a 1 to 1 laptop resource for your students?

  3. Hey Jack, I really enjoyed this post. I liked the inclusion of the Phet simulations, I think these are a great science resource. I included them on my own post as well. I think that Dollar Tree is also a great idea, and one I don’t think about often. There could definitely be some cool materials in there to create some sort of demonstrations or labs as you describe. One question I did have for you is about your inclusion of Teachers Pay Teachers. I know Dr. Ann has expressed concern about this resource in the past, how do you think it is best to use the site without running into the problems we have talked about in class?

  4. Hi Jack, I enjoyed reading your post. One thing that stuck out to me was using YouTube for engagement. I think that YouTube can be a great tool for teachers, especially when it comes to showing things that we just can’t do in a classroom. However, I often see students dozing off, losing interest, and easily getting distracted. I was wondering what you plan to do in regards to which videos you select and how you present them to make sure that they are engaging for students.

  5. Hey Jack! Great post. I noticed some similarities in our resources that we mentioned that teachers could provide to the students on a budget. As an educator, it is not only important that we are able to create meaningful learning experiences, but find ways to make it innovative and engaging for our students. I noticed how we both mentioned Youtube as a tool. When you were in school, did any of your teachers use this platform for engagement before diving into a topic? Do you have any creators in mind that you plan on using one day in your own class? Thanks!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.