Professional Learning

Readers’ Survey 2006: Best Source of Classroom Freebies

Edutopia readers weigh in on their favorites.

April 3, 2006
Credit: Joe Willis

Many who took the survey said they don't know any sources of classroom freebies. The more determined seekers take to the Web, though, and they report that the best sites include,, Scholastic, the History Channel, TeAchnology, and unitedstreaming. The best offline source of goodies is conferences -- any and all, though the annual events organized by the National Science Teachers Association got special mention. If you can't go, say readers, have a lucky colleague from another school make a freebie sweep for you.

Our Take

The School Dumpster

Joe Willis, science department chairman at Leggett Valley School, in Leggett, California, listed "the school Dumpster" as the best source of classroom freebies. We asked him to elaborate -- after washing his hands first:

"Science equipment, especially the stuff produced and marketed for schools, is too expensive! Plus, it tends to come with canned lessons that narrow the range of student exploration rather than expand it. Our solution has been to design and make our own equipment from discarded materials. My high school students, as well as my own two elementary-school-age children, regularly explore recycling bins and Dumpsters for things we can use for science experiments.

"For example, my own children and I make a marble run by gluing pieces of scrap wood and dowels to a 1-inch-by-10-inch board. Its uses range from entertainment and eye-hand coordination for kindergartners to more sophisticated explorations of acceleration and collisions for high school students. Students can be challenged to design a run with a set amount of materials that will result in the longest possible trip for a marble from top to bottom. I have also had students design similar runs entirely out of paper and glue or tape.

"The Jacob's Ladder was made of scrap wood and wire and a discarded transformer from a neon-light display. Kids love seeing 15,000-volt sparks climb the metal rods, and dozens of questions always arise, which provide great lead-ins for studying electricity. The idea for this was found on the Internet by my twelve-year-old son, who built it with my supervision.

"Naturally, any teacher supervising such inventions should be mindful of all safety considerations, and, when in doubt, should consult an expert. Remember, though, there is also a risk involved in not taking risks."

Readers' Survey Home > Best movie about educators

Share This Story

  • email icon

Filed Under

  • Professional Learning

Follow Edutopia

  • facebook icon
  • twitter icon
  • instagram icon
  • youtube icon
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
George Lucas Educational Foundation
Edutopia is an initiative of the George Lucas Educational Foundation.
Edutopia®, the EDU Logo™ and Lucas Education Research Logo® are trademarks or registered trademarks of the George Lucas Educational Foundation in the U.S. and other countries.