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What if companies partner with teachers/schools to help furnish creativity boxes?

Educators cannot assume students have specific items at home--what if there was the ability to create "to go" boxes of creativity items?

Photo of Jessica Lura
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I am a.....

  • Teacher

Tell us about your idea

Pre-remote learning, teachers were able to control the materials students used in projects--collecting toilet rolls, getting donated items, having classroom markers and scissors. With the move to at-home learning, teachers cannot assume that these items are available at home. Even asking students to use "low cost" items such as spaghetti is assuming that the family has access to it and that food insecurity is not an issue in that home. How can teachers do hands-on, creative learning with ALL learners, not just those who have ready access to "extra" materials?

What if the teacher could partner with a company or a community-organization to create to-go bags that supposed hands-on learning. Our community has an organization where companies donate unneeded items (which often tend to be odd--like 300 foam cup-holders). Similar to a Donor's Choose model, what if teachers could "order" kits of items for their students to use -- 30 plastic tubes, 90 coffee stirrers, etc. 

Important to consider

How might ALL students get their boxes? Would this be able to be tied to something else? Book exchange? Little Free Library? Grocery store? Brought to home? Pick up at school? How might we ensure that we are not adding a learning/access gap?

Some organizational possibilities:

A spreadsheet where donations were organized: teachers could pick up to a certain number of items to be added to a box (or other container) for their students. Thirty students, thirty boxes.

Containers could be arranged with items for a grade level span: these types of items are for kinder- grade 1, grades 2-5, etc. The teacher would request one type of box.

Containers would have a certain number of items but the actual items would not be determined ahead time. Students could either get different boxes (from each other) or everyone could get the same random assortment.

Boxes would be arranged by a theme or even a specific project. Order this box to get materials that can be used to create chain reactions; order this box to get materials to study electricity. 

Partner with an organization like Mystery Science but help supply the "at home" items.

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

focus on grades, focus on seat work

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

Our specialists have really struggled with not defaulting to the lowest common denominator with a focus on online materials rather than hands-on-- art on the computer, using digital maps etc.--because they knew that not all students had materials. We've even had students say that they are running out of paper.

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

SF Bay Area, California, USA


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jessica  Vernouski

Hi Jessica,
Thanks for sharing your idea! I work for a cyber school in PA where we send boxes called a STEM kit to our families. The box is full of random materials appropriate to their grade level, such as coffee filters, craft sticks, magnets, lightbulbs, etc. The goal is to give students the opportunity to engage is STEM projects and builds with the materials, without putting any expense on the parents. We use a pretty hefty chunk of our school's budget for the boxes!

I like your idea of getting the community involved to donate items. I feel if the box of stuff contains something that says what companies donated the goods, it would be a win for the business too, as they would get some advertisement.

My only question is, would there be any sort of system for determining who/what grade levels get certain items in their package based on what the teacher thinks or knows they can use?

Photo of Jessica Lura

Great question. Ideally, yes, there would be a system for a teacher to either choose what went in the packages or at least would be able to know ahead of time. While getting materials is great, it might become tricky to support students who were struggling if they all had different boxes.

The question would be does the teacher request some first or the donations. If it were donations, then there could be a spreadsheet (or app) where teachers requested certain items. If it were teacher requests, then the people making the boxes could only fill with items they had. There could also be a random box choice (perhaps those would come more quickly) and maybe generic grade level span boxes (K-1 might have magnets but grade 2-5 might have LEDs and batteries) to help facilitate the matching.

It's awesome that your school is willing to invest the money is creating the STEM boxes-- did you find that the students used them?

Photo of Jessica  Vernouski

Yes, we do have students use them. We tend to give a lot of open-ended projects, allowing them to use a variety of materials from the box. Some students and families do complain that they are wasteful, which I can also agree with to a point.
What bothers me most is the amount of plastic items in the boxes. Like each student gets 100 plastic straws, 50 plastic cups, etc. Since many states and cites are banning single-use plastics, I feel that we are giving the wrong message! I think we should work on finding more sustainable, eco-friendly options for students to have in their boxes. I like your idea of magnets and the LED lights! Those are two items that can be used in a variety of meaningful ways.

Photo of Jackie Tan

This is an interesting idea. I'm thinking I may need to run a flipped maker classroom. Hands on projects at home. I currently don't see a way to track and clean the myriad tools and supplies. Demonstrations during face to face sessions.

Challenge I anticipate is getting materials to all students. I offered optional maker kits twice a month. After 4 pick up dates, I'd say that the majority of participants were the more privileged kids. So universal access is essential.

Photo of Jessica Lura

Jackie,Great point. Making sure all students have access would definitely be key -- whether this would be dropping off materials at students' houses or some other method specifically to each school and context would need to be determined. Thanks for sharing about your experience with something similar.

Photo of Jessica  Vernouski

Hi Jackie,

I wonder if you would be able to get volunteers to help deliver the kits to families?